The activation of leukocytes by chemokines is believed to be mediated via binding of chemokines to glycosaminoglycan chains of the extracellular matrix. The binding site on the chemokine interleukin-8 (IL-8) for the glycosaminoglycan heparin has been characterized using a systematic series of site-directed mutants of IL-8 in which the basic residues of the protein have been replaced by alanine. Mutation of K64 and R68 caused the largest decrease in affinity for a heparin Sepharose matrix, with smaller effects seen with mutations of K20, R60, and K67. Heparin-derived disaccharides that could disrupt the IL-8-heparin Sepharose interaction were identified by a competitive binding assay. Heteronuclear NMR spectroscopic titration of 15N-labeled IL-8 with a trisulfated disaccharide revealed a cluster of residues on IL-8 which were perturbed by disaccharide binding. These data identify a heparin-binding surface on IL-8 that includes the C-terminal alpha-helix and the proximal loop around residues 18-23. The heparin-binding site is spatially distinct from the residues involved in receptor binding.