Integrin-binding peptides increase cell adhesion to naive hydroxyapatite (HA), however, in the body, HA becomes rapidly modified by protein adsorption. Previously we reported that, when combined with an adsorbed protein layer, RGD peptides interfered with cell adhesion to HA. In the current study we evaluated mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) interactions with HA disks coated with the collagen-mimetic peptides, DGEA, P15 and GFOGER. MSCs adhered equally well to disks coated with DGEA, P15, or collagen I, and all three substrates, but not GFOGER, supported greater cell adhesion than uncoated HA. When peptide-coated disks were overcoated with proteins from serum or the tibial microenvironment, collagen mimetics did not inhibit MSC adhesion, as was observed with RGD, however neither did they enhance adhesion. Given that activation of collagen-selective integrins stimulates osteoblastic differentiation, we monitored osteocalcin secretion and alkaline phosphatase activity from MSCs adherent to DGEA or P15-coated disks. Both of these osteoblastic markers were upregulated by DGEA and P15, in the presence and absence of differentiation-inducing media. Finally, bone formation on HA tibial implants was increased by the collagen mimetics. Collectively these results suggest that collagen-mimetic peptides improve osseointegration of HA, most probably by stimulating osteoblastic differentiation, rather than adhesion, of MSCs. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.