It was previously shown that mutations of integrin alpha4 chain sites, within putative EF-hand-type divalent cation-binding domains, each caused a marked reduction in alpha4beta1-dependent cell adhesion. Some reports have suggested that alpha-chain "EF-hand" sites may interact directly with ligands. However, we show here that mutations of three different alpha4 "EF-hand" sites each had no effect on binding of soluble monovalent or bivalent vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 whether measured indirectly or directly. Furthermore, these mutations had minimal effect on alpha4beta1-dependent cell tethering to vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 under shear. However, EF-hand mutants did show severe impairments in cellular resistance to detachment under shear flow. Thus, mutation of integrin alpha4 "EF-hand-like" sites may impair 1) static cell adhesion and 2) adhesion strengthening under shear flow by a mechanism that does not involve alterations of initial ligand binding.