In polarized B lymphoid cells, syndecan-1 is targeted specifically to a discrete membrane domain termed the uropod that is located at the cell's trailing edge. Within this functional domain, syndecan-1 promotes cell-cell adhesion and concentration of heparin binding growth factors. The present study reveals the surprising finding that targeting of syndecan-1 to uropods is mediated by its heparan sulfate chains and that targeting is regulated by cell surface events rather than solely by intracellular mechanisms. The addition of exogenous heparin or the treatment of polarized cells with heparitinase initiates a rapid and dramatic redistribution of uropod syndecan-1 over the entire cell surface, and a mutated syndecan-1 lacking heparan sulfate chains fails to concentrate within uropods. Interestingly, the heparan sulfate-bearing proteoglycans glypican-1 and betaglycan fail to concentrate in uropods, indicating that targeting may require heparan sulfate structural motifs unique to syndecan-1 or that the core protein of syndecan-1 participates in specific interactions that promote heparan sulfate-mediated targeting. These findings suggest functional specificity for syndecan-1 within uropods and, in addition, reveal a novel mechanism for the targeting of molecules to discrete membrane subcellular domains via heparan sulfate.