Thrombospondin is an inhibitor of angiogenesis that modulates endothelial cell adhesion, proliferation, and motility. Synthetic peptides from the second type I repeat of human thrombospondin containing the consensus sequence-Trp-Ser-Pro-Trp- and a recombinant heparin binding fragment from the amino-terminus of thrombospondin mimic several of the activities of the intact protein. The peptides and heparin-binding domain promote endothelial cell adhesion, inhibit endothelial cell chemotaxis to basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), and inhibit mitogenesis and proliferation of aortic and corneal endothelial cells. The peptides also inhibit heparin-dependent binding of bFGF to corneal endothelial cells. The antiproliferative activities of the peptides correlate with their ability to bind to heparin and to inhibit bFGF binding to heparin. Peptides containing amino acid substitutions that eliminate heparin-binding do not alter chemotaxis or proliferation of endothelial cells. Inhibition of proliferation by the peptide is time-dependent and reversible. Thus, the antiproliferative activities of the thrombospondin peptide and recombinant heparin-binding domain result at least in part from competition with heparin-dependent growth factors for binding to endothelial cell proteoglycans. These results suggest that both the Trp-Ser-Xaa-Trp sequences in the type I repeats and the amino-terminal domain play roles in the antiproliferative activity of thrombospondin.