Hyaluronate (HA) is an abundant component of extracellular matrix that is believed to be crucial in many cellular processes, including tissue remodeling, the creation of cell-free spaces, inflammation and tumorigenesis. Although several well characterized proteins within the extracellular matrix associate with HA, it is now clear that cells can also bind and respond to HA directly, via cell-surface HA-binding proteins. The cDNAs coding for two families of such proteins, CD44 and RHAMM, have been cloned and characterized. These proteins have been implicated in a number of physiological processes, including cell migration, lymphocyte activation and tumor progression. Although many of these processes depend on an association with HA, some are apparently HA-independent, suggesting that other ligands for these receptors may be involved.