The adhesion and motility of tumor cells on basement membranes is a central consideration in tumor cell invasion and metastasis. Basement membrane type IV collagen directly promotes the adhesion and migration of various tumor cell types in vitro. Our previous studies demonstrated that tumor cells adhered and spread on surfaces coated with intact type IV collagen or either of the two major enzymatically purified domains of this protein. Only one of these major domains, the pepsin-generate major triple helical fragment, also supported tumor cell motility in vitro, implicating the involvement of the major triple helical region in type IV collagen-mediated tumor cell invasion in vitro. The present studies extend our previous observations using a synthetic peptide approach. A peptide, designated IV-H1, was derived from a continuous collagenous region of the major triple helical domain of the human α1(IV) chain. This peptide, which has the sequence GVKGDKGNPGWPGAP, directly supported the adhesion, spreading, and motility of the highly metastatic K1735 M4 murine melanoma cell line, as well as the adhesion and spreading of other cell types, in a concentration-dependent manner in vitro. Furthermore, excess soluble peptide IV-H1, or polyclonal antibodies directed against peptide IV-H1, inhibited type IV collagen-mediated melanoma cell adhesion, spreading, and motility, but had no effect on these cellular responses to type I collagen. The full complement of cell adhesion, spreading, and motility promoting activities was dependent upon the preservation of the three prolyl residues in the peptide IV-H1 sequence. These studies indicate that peptide IV-H1 represents a cell-specific adhesion, spreading, and motility promoting domain that is active within the type IV collagen molecule.