Interactions between human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) and various carbohydrate structures were analysed using sulfated glucuronyl glycosphingolipids (SGGLs) and the structurally related glycosphingolipids (GLs). A thin-layer chromatography-overlay assay and a solid-phase binding assay revealed that HCMV strongly bound to sulfated glucuronyl lactosaminylparagloboside, one of the SGGLs having the repeating lactosamine structure (3Gal beta1-4GlcNAc1-)2 in addition to the 3-O-sulfated glucuronyl moiety. The virus bound less strongly to other 3-O-sulfated GLs, which included sulfated glucuronyl paragloboside and cerebroside sulfate ester, and also to (3Gal beta1-4GlcNAc1-)2-containing GLs that included nLc6Cer. Thus, a (3Gal beta1-4GlcNAc1-)2 and a 3-O-sulfated saccharide seem to be important structures for the binding by HCMV. When virus particles were preincubated with these GLs, inhibitory effects were observed both on expression of the viral immediate-early gene and on plaque formation by HCMV. These effects were very well correlated with the abilities of the GLs to bind to the virus. Pretreatment of host cells with HNK-1 monoclonal antibody, which specifically recognizes SGGLs, resulted in partial inhibition of plaque formation by HCMV. These results clearly show that HCMV recognizes and binds to the sulfated carbohydrate structure in SGGL and also suggest that binding of HCMV to the specific sugar structure may play an important role in HCMV infection.