Blood vessel formation requires endothelial cell interactions with the extracellular matrix through cell surface receptors, and signaling events that control endothelial cell adhesion, migration, and lumen formation. Laminin-8 (alpha4beta1gamma1) is present in all basement membranes of blood vessels in fetal and adult tissues, but despite its importance in vessel formation, its role in endothelial cell adhesion and migration remains undefined. We examined adhesion and migration of HMEC-1 human microvascular endothelial cells on laminin-8 with an emphasis on the integrin-mediated signaling events, as compared with those on laminin-10/11 and fibronectin. We found that laminin-8 was less potent in HMEC-1 cell adhesion than laminin-1, laminin-10/11, and fibronectin, and mediated cell adhesion through alpha6beta1 integrin. Despite its weak cell-adhesive activity, laminin-8 was as potent as laminin-10/11 in promoting cell migration. Cells adhering to laminin-8 displayed streaks of thin actin filaments and formed lamellipodia at the leading edge of the cells, as observed with cells adhering to laminin-10/11, while cells on fibronectin showed thick actin stress fibers and large focal adhesions. Pull-down assays of GTP-loaded Rho, Rac, and Cdc42 demonstrated that Rac, but not Rho or Cdc42, was preferentially activated on laminin-8 and laminin-10/11, when compared with fibronectin. Furthermore, a dominant-negative mutant of Rac suppressed cell spreading, lamellipodial formation, and migration on laminin-8, but not on fibronectin. These results, taken together, indicate that Rac is activated during endothelial cell adhesion to laminin-8, and is pivotal for alpha6beta1 integrin-mediated cell spreading and migration on laminin-8.