The tetraspanin CD151 molecule associates specifically with laminin-binding integrins, including alpha6beta1. To probe strength of alpha6beta1-dependent adhesion to laminin-1, defined forces (0-1.5 nN) were applied to magnetic laminin-coated microbeads bound to NIH 3T3 cells. For NIH 3T3 cells bearing wild-type CD151, adhesion strengthening was observed, as bead detachment became more difficult over time. In contrast, mutant CD151 (with the C-terminal region replaced) showed impaired adhesion strengthening. Static cell adhesion to laminin-1, and detachment of beads coated with fibronectin or anti-alpha6 antibody were all unaffected by CD151 mutation. Hence, CD151 plays a key role in selectively strengthening alpha6beta1 integrin-mediated adhesion to laminin-1.