Tumor angiogenesis is of paramount importance in solid tumor development. Elevated serum levels of YKL-40, which is a secreted heparin-binding glycoprotein, have been associated with a worse prognosis from various advanced human cancers. Yet the role of YKL-40 activity in these cancers is still missing. In this study, we showed that ectopic expression of YKL-40 in MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells and in HCT-116 colon cancer cells led to larger tumor formation with an extensive angiogenic phenotype than did control cancer cells in mice. Affinity-purified recombinant YKL-40 protein promoted vascular endothelial cell angiogenesis in vitro, the effects of which are similar to the activities observed using MDA-MB-231 and HCT-116 cell-conditioned medium after transfection with YKL-40. Furthermore, YKL-40 was found to induce coordination of membrane-bound receptor syndecan-1 and integrin alpha(v)beta(3) and to activate an intracellular signaling cascade, including focal adhesion kinase and mitogen-activated protein kinase extracellular signal-related kinase1/2 in endothelial cells. Moreover, blockade of YKL-40 using small-interfering RNA gene knockdown suppressed tumor angiogenesis in vitro and in vivo. Immunohistochemical analysis of human breast cancer showed a correlation between YKL-40 expression and blood vessel density. These findings provide novel insights into angiogenic activities and molecular mechanisms of YKL-40 in cancer development.