Human metapneumovirus (hMPV) is an important cause of lower respiratory tract disease, particularly in infants and young children. hMPV has two major glycoproteins, G and F, which are responsible for virus attachment and membrane fusion, respectively. We investigated the role of cellular glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) and G protein in hMPV infection. The pretreatment of hMPV with soluble heparin markedly inhibited the infection of HEp-2 cells. Recombinant G protein, comprising the extracellular domain of G, bound to heparin-agarose columns and also to HEp-2 cells. hMPV infection and G protein binding to HEp-2 cells was inhibited by other soluble GAGs, including chondroitin sulfates, by the enzymatic removal of cell surface GAGs with GAG lyases or by the pretreatment of cells with basic fibroblast growth factor. The role of cellular GAGs was confirmed by the binding of G protein to wild-type CHO cells but not to GAG-deficient CHO-pgsA745 cells. An analysis of the G protein sequence revealed two adjacent clusters of positively charged amino acids ((149)EKKKTRA(155) and (159)QRRGKGKE(166)). Truncated G fragments were expressed, and only the fragment containing these putative heparin binding domains retained heparin binding. The alanine mutagenesis of charged residues in either of these regions resulted in the loss of binding to heparin and to HEp-2 cells, suggesting that both sites are likely to be required for hMPV attachment. These results, taken together with the inhibition of hMPV infection by soluble G protein, indicate an important role for G protein and cellular GAGs in hMPV infection.