Self-association between various heparan sulphate species and oligosaccharide fragments thereof have been studied by affinity chromatography. Polysaccharides or oligosaccharides were coupled to agarose and free chains were applied at low concentrations (less than or equal to 2 mg/ml) in 0.15 M NaCl to minimize self-association between free chains. The results show that the interaction may be specific. Heparan sulphate chains chiefly bind to gels substituted with cognate chains, i.e. the same kind or closely similar ones. Oligosaccharides of the general structure glucosamine-(iduronate/glucuronate-glucosamine)n--O--C(=CH2)--CHO were prepared by periodate oxidation/alkaline elimination and also coupled to agarose via the --CHO group. Cognate heparan sulphate chains were bound to this affinity matrix with the same affinity as in the case of heparan-sulphate--agarose. Free oligosaccharides were not bound to oligosaccharide-agarose, nor to the corresponding heparan-sulphate--agarose. Oligosaccharides of the same size and containing only iduronate were ineffective as affinity ligands. It is concluded that the segments comprising both iduronate and glucuronate may serve as contact zones in the heparan sulphate/heparan sulphate self-association and that the strength of binding is dependent on cooperative interactions between a number of such zones. The putative contact zones, as ligands on the matrix, showed an emerging lack of specificity as non-associating or unrelated and associating chains were bound to this gel. This is ascribed to a randomization of the contact zones which, in the polymeric chains, are placed in their proper register by the intervening (glucuronate-N-acetylglucosamine)n segments.