The Arg-Tyr-Asp (RYD) and Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) sequences within the third complementarity-determining region of the heavy chain (H3) of murine recombinant Fab molecules OPG2 and AP7, respectively, are responsible for their specific binding to the platelet integrin alphaIIbbeta3. In this study, we evaluated the influence of divalent cation composition and single amino acid substitutions at key positions within H3 on the selectivity of these Fab molecules for integrin alphaIIbbeta3 versus the vitronectin receptor alphaVbeta3. The parent Fab molecule OPG2 (H3 sequence, HPFYRYDGGN) binds selectively to alphaIIbbeta3 and not at all to any other RGD-cognitive integrin, particularly alphaVbeta3, under any divalent cation conditions. The binding of the AP7 Fab molecule (HPFYRGDGGN) to alphaIIbbeta3 is not affected by the relative composition of calcium, magnesium or manganese. However, AP7 binding to alphaVbeta3, either expressed by M21 cells or as the purified integrin, is supported by manganese and inhibited by calcium. If the flanking asparagine 108 residue within the AP7 H3 loop is replaced by alanine (HPFYRGDGGA), the resulting Fab molecule AP7.4 binds selectively to alphaVbeta3 in a cation-dependent manner, but does not bind at all to alphaIIbbeta3 under any conditions. AP7.4 binding to alphaVbeta3 is supported by manganese, completely inhibited by calcium, and largely unaffected by magnesium. This behavior mimics that of the adhesive protein, osteopontin, another ligand that binds preferentially to alphaVbeta3. Despite these differences in specificity for alphaIIbbeta3 and alphaVbeta3, AP7 and AP7.4 remain selective for the beta3 integrins and do not bind to cell lines that express the RGD-cognitive integrins alphaVbeta5 or alpha5beta1. These results confirm that subtle changes in the amino acid composition immediately flanking the RGD or RYD motifs can have a profound effect on beta3 integrin specificity, most likely because they influence the juxtaposition of the arginine and aspartate side chains within the extended RGD loop sequence.