Heparan sulphate N-deacetylase/N-sulphotransferase (NDST) enzymes catalyse the reaction that initiates sulphation and subsequent modification of the oligosaccharide, heparan sulphate (HS). The extent and distribution of sulphate substitution on HS plays a vital role in regulation of the binding of a range of proteins, including IFN-gamma, several interleukins and most chemokines. In this study, the expression of NDST transcripts was found to be non-uniform between a range of cell types, suggesting that different cells produce characteristic HS species. It was found that stimulation of the HMEC-1 microvascular endothelial cell line with the pro-inflammatory cytokines IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha caused a transient decrease in the level of NDST-1 and -2 transcripts after 4 hours (P < 0.05 and P < 0.01 respectively), but the expression of NDST-1 increased above control levels after 16 hours (P < 0.01). The change in NDST expression was concurrent with an increase in the abundance of sulphated HS epitopes on the cell surface; this was not caused by variation in the expression of proteoglycans or by changes in the rate of GAG turnover. Cytokine-stimulated endothelial cells also showed an increase in their potential to bind RANTES (CCL5); this was abrogated by chlorate blockade of sulphotransferase activity or by heparitinase cleavage of cell surface HS. Monolayers of cytokine-stimulated HMEC-1 also supported an enhanced leukocyte chemotactic response towards RANTES. This study demonstrated that pro-inflammatory cytokines can increase NDST expression leading to increased sulphation of HS and a corresponding increase in sequestration of functional RANTES at the apical surface of endothelial cells. This may enhance leukocyte extravasation at sites of inflammation.