Fibronectin has been shown previously to promote complete cell adhesion in the absence of other serum components or de novo protein synthesis. Recently a sequence of four amino acids from the cell-binding domain of fibronectin has been termed the 'cell recognition site' of this multidomain molecule since it mediates cell attachment and inhibits cell adhesion to intact fibronectin. We show here, however, that substrata coated with an isolated cell-binding domain of fibronectin are not sufficient for complete cell adhesion; cells attach and spread but, unlike those adhering to intact fibronectin, they do not form stress fibres terminating in focal adhesions. An additional external stimulus is needed for this cytoskeletal reorganisation and may be provided by one of two heparin-binding fragments of fibronectin. The two 'signals' required for complete adhesion need not be provided simultaneously since focal adhesion formation can be promoted by stimulating cells pre-spread on a cell-binding fragment of fibronectin with a soluble heparin-binding fragment. This second stimulation may involve cell membrane heparan sulphate proteoglycans.