The process of cellular de-adhesion is potentially important for the ability of a cell to participate in morphogenesis and to respond to injurious stimuli. Cellular de-adhesion is induced by the highly regulated matricellular proteins TSP1 and 2, tenascin-C, and SPARC. These proteins induce a rapid transition to an intermediate state of adhesiveness characterized by loss of actin-containing stress fibers and restructuring of the focal adhesion plaque that includes loss of vinculin and α-actinin, but not of talin or integrin. This process involves intracellular signaling mediators, which are engaged in response to matrix protein-receptor interactions. Each of these proteins employs different receptors and signaling pathways to achieve this common morphologic endpoint. What is the function of this intermediate adhesive state and what is the physiologic significance of this action of the matricellular proteins? Given that matricellular proteins are expressed in response to injury and during development, one can speculate that the intermediate adhesive state is an adaptive condition that facilitates expression of specific genes that are involved in repair and adaptation. Since cell shape is maintained in weakly adherent cells, this state might induce survival signals to prevent apoptosis due to loss of strong cell adhesion, but yet allow for cell locomotion. The three matricellular proteins considered here might each preferentially facilitate one or more aspects of this adaptive response rather than all of these equally. Currently, we have only preliminary data to support the specific ideas proposed in this article. It will be interesting in the next several years to continue to elucidate the biological roles of the intermediate adhesive state induced by these matricellular proteins.