Endothelial cell activation involves the elevated expression of cell adhesion molecules, chemoattractants, chemokines, and cytokines. These expression profiles may be regulated by integrin-mediated cell signaling pathways. In the current study, an alpha2beta1 integrin triple helical peptide ligand derived from type I collagen residues alpha1(I)496-507 was examined for induction of human aortic endothelial cell (HAEC) activation. In addition, a "miniextracellular matrix" composed of a mixture of the alpha1(I)496-507 ligand and a second, alpha-helical ligand incorporating the endothelial cell proliferating region of SPARC (secreted protein acidic and rich in cysteine) was studied for induction of HAEC activation. Following HAEC adhesion to alpha1(I)496-507, mRNA expression of E-selectin-1, vascular and intercellular cell adhesion molecules-1, and monocytic chemoattractant protein-1 was stimulated, whereas that of endothelin-1 was inhibited. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay analysis demonstrated that E-selectin-1 and monocytic chemoattractant protein-1 expression was also stimulated, whereas endothelin-1 protein expression diminished. Engagement of the alpha2beta1 integrin initiated a HAEC response similar to that of tumor necrosis factor-alpha-induced HAECs but was not sufficient to induce an inflammatory response. Addition of the SPARC119-122 region had only a slight effect on HAEC activation. Other cell-extracellular matrix interactions appear to be required to elicit an inflammatory response. The alpha2beta1 integrin specific triple helical peptide ligand described herein represents a more general in vitro model system by which gene expression and protein production profiles induced by binding to a single cellular receptor type can be quantified.