Cell surface heparan sulfate (HS) influences a multitude of molecules, cell types, and processes relevant to inflammation. HS binds to cell surface and matrix proteins, cytokines, and chemokines. These interactions modulate inflammatory cell maturation and activation, leukocyte rolling, and tight adhesion to endothelium, as well as extravasation and chemotaxis. The syndecan family of transmembrane proteoglycans is the major source of cell surface HS on all cell types. Recent in vitro and in vivo data suggest the involvement of syndecans in the modulation of leukocyte-endothelial interactions and extravasation, the formation of chemokine and kininogen gradients, participation in chemokine and growth factor signaling, as well as repair processes. Thus, the complex role of HS in inflammation is reflected by multiple functions of its physiological carriers, the syndecans. Individual and common functions of the four mammalian syndecan family members can be distinguished. Recently generated transgenic and knockout mouse models will facilitate analysis of the individual processes that each syndecan is involved in.