The dystrophin-glycoprotein complex was tested for interaction with several components of the extracellular matrix as well as actin. The 156-kD dystrophin-associated glycoprotein (156-kD dystroglycan) specifically bound laminin in a calcium-dependent manner and was inhibited by NaCl (IC50 = 250 mM) but was not affected by 1,000-fold (wt/wt) excesses of lactose, IKVAV, or YIGSR peptides. Laminin binding was inhibited by heparin (IC50 = 100 μg/ml), suggesting that one of the heparin-binding domains of laminin is involved in binding dystroglycan while negatively charged oligosaccharide moieties on dystroglycan were found to be necessary for its laminin-binding activity. No interaction between any component of the dystrophin-glycoprotein complex and fibronectin, collagen I, collagen IV, entactin, or heparan sulfate proteoglycan was detected by 125I-protein overlay and/or extracellular matrix protein-Sepharose precipitation. In addition, laminin- Sepharose quantitatively precipitated purified dystrophin-glycoprotein complex, demonstrating that the laminin-binding site is accessible when dystroglycan is associated with the complex. Dystroglycan of nonmuscle tissues also bound laminin. However, the other proteins of the striated muscle dystrophin-glycoprotein complex appear to be absent, antigenically dissimilar or less tightly associated with dystroglycan in nonmuscle tissues. Finally, we show that the dystrophin-glycoprotein complex cosediments with F- actin but does not bind calcium or calmodulin. Our results support a role for the striated muscle dystrophin-glycoprotein complex in linking the actin- based cytoskeleton with the extracellular matrix. Furthermore, our results suggest that dystrophin and dystroglycan may play substantially different functional roles in nonmuscle tissues.