We have previously shown that the LG4 (laminin G-like) domain of the laminin alpha4 chain is responsible for the significantly higher affinity of the alpha4 chain to heparin than found for other alpha chains [Yamaguchi, Yamashita, Mori, Okazaki, Nomizu, Beck and Kitagawa (2000) J. Biol. Chem. 275, 29458-29465]; four basic residues were identified to be essential for this activity [Yamashita, Beck and Kitagawa (2004) J. Mol. Biol. 335, 1145-1149]. By creating GST (glutathione S-transferase)-fused LG1, LG2, LG4 and LG5 proteins, we found that only LG4 is active for the adhesion of human HT1080 cells, human umbilical vein endothelial cells and Drosophila haemocytes Kc167 with a half-saturating concentration of 20 microg/ml. Adhesion was counteracted by treatment of the cells with heparin, heparan sulphate and heparitinase I. Upon mutating the four basic residues essential for heparin binding within LG4, the adhesion activity was abolished. Pull-down experiments using glutathione beads/GST-fusion proteins indicate a direct interaction of LG4 with syndecan-4, which might be the major receptor for cell adhesion. Neither the release of glypican-1 by treating human cells with phosphatidylinositol-specific phospholipase C nor targeted knockdown of dally or dally-like protein impaired the cell-adhesion activity. As the LG4-LG5 domain of the alpha4 chain is cleaved in vivo from the main body of laminin-8 (alpha4beta1gamma1), we suggest that the heparan sulphate proteoglycan-binding activity of LG4 is significant in modulating the signalling of Wnt, Decapentaplegic and fibroblast growth factors.