Up to now, most of the studies addressing the critical roles played by protrusive and contractile cell-matrix contacts in cell adhesion, guidance, migration, matrix assembly, and activation of signaling molecules have been performed on two-dimensional surfaces. Here, we analysed the organization of chondrosarcoma cell contacts in a new three-dimensional environment made of titanium beads. Surface charges were modified by deposition of polyelectrolyte multilayer films built up by alternated polycations poly-(L-lysine) or poly(allylamine hydrochloride) and polyanions poly-(L-glutamic acid) or poly(sodium 4-styrenesulfonate). Negatively charged 3-D titanium surfaces amplified the occurrence and length of cell protrusions. These protrusions had pseudopod characteristics extended to 200 μm in length, growing off the substratum to distant beads. Pseudopod formation is inhibited by the exocytosis inhibitor concanamycin A and is triggered by a secreted factor. Chondrosarcoma cells adhering on uncoated or on negatively charged surfaces contained discrete focal spots of vinculin and actin cables. In cells plated onto these surfaces, phosphorylation of p44/42 MAPK/ERK was twofold increased. In contrast, no cytoskeletal vinculin and actin organization was observed when the surface was positively charged. These data suggest that chondrosarcoma cells adapt a more stable adhesion on uncoated or negatively charged surfaces. This point may be critical in tissue engineering strategies designed for cartilage repair. Cell Motil. Cytoskeleton 56:147–158, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.