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Collagen, isolated from the sponge Geodia cydonium in the absence of denaturing agents, had the typical amino acid composition and was associated with the carbohydrates galactose and glucose. The resulting individual fibrils with a diameter of 23 nm, displayed a 19.5 nm periodicity with one intraperiod band. A collagen assembly factor (CAF) was identified in and partially purified from the extracellular space. The CAF reacted with antibodies against intact Geodia cells but not with antibodies against Geodia lectin and Geodia aggregation factor. In the presence of the CAF, the collagen fibrils reconstituted collagen bundles in an ordered sequence of events, which were followed by electron-microscopical and biochemical methods. Bundle formation was not dependent on the presence of the homologous lectin, glycoconjugates or aggregation factor. Homologous cells (Geodia archaeocytes) were determined to attach only to those Geodia collagen substrates that contained CAF. The attachment of these cells did not require fibronectin or Geodia lectin. Homologous glycoconjugates or NaOH-treated collagen inhibited cell attachment. Collagen from the sponge Chondrosia reniformis, even in the presence of Geodia CAF, was no appropriate substrate for Geodia cell attachment. Whether collagen is a component of cell-matrix interactions in sponge systems also in vivo is discussed.