A point mutation in a highly conserved region of the beta 1 subunit, Asp130 to Ala (D130A) substitution, abrogates the Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD)-dependent binding of alpha 5 beta 1 to fibronectin (FN) without disrupting gross structure or heterodimer assembly. The D130A mutation also interferes with binding to invasin, a ligand that lacks RGD sequence. In spite of the lack of detectable FN binding by alpha 5 beta 1(D130A), it was recruited to adhesion plaques formed on FN by endogenous hamster receptors. Thus, intact ligand binding function is not required for recruitment of alpha 5 beta 1 to adhesion plaques. Overexpression of beta 1(D130A) partially interfered with endogenous alpha 5 beta 1 function, thus defining a dominant negative beta 1 integrin mutation.