Heparanase is a beta-D-endoglucuronidase that cleaves heparan sulfate, an important structural component of the extracellular matrix (ECM) and vascular basement membrane (BM). The cleavage of heparan sulfate by heparanase-expressing cells, such as activated leukocytes, metastatic tumor cells, and proliferating endothelial cells, facilitates degradation of the ECM/BM to promote cell invasion associated with inflammation, tumor metastasis, and angiogenesis. In addition to its enzymatic function, heparanase has also recently been shown to act as a cell adhesion and/or signaling molecule upon interaction with cell surfaces. Despite the obvious importance of the mechanisms for the binding of heparanase to cell surfaces, the receptor(s) for heparanase remain poorly defined. In this study, we identify the 300-kDa cation-independent mannose 6-phosphate receptor (CIMPR) as a cell surface receptor for heparanase. Purified platelet heparanase was shown to bind the human CIMPR expressed on the surface of a transfected mouse L cell line. Optimal binding was determined to be at a slightly acidic pH (6.5-7.0) with heparanase remaining on the cell surface for up to 10 min at 37 degrees C. In contrast, mouse L cells or Chinese hamster ovary cells expressing the cation-dependent mannose 6-phosphate receptor (CDMPR) showed no binding of heparanase. Interestingly, the binding of heparanase to CIMPR was independent of Man-6-P moieties. Significantly, primary human T cells upon activation were shown to dramatically up-regulate levels of cell surface-expressed CIMPR, which showed a concomitant increase in their capacity to bind heparanase. Furthermore, the tethering of heparanase to the surface of cells via CIMPR was found to increase their capacity to degrade an ECM or a reconstituted BM. These data suggest an important role for CIMPR in the cell surface presentation of enzymatically active heparanase for the efficient passage of T cells into an inflammatory site and have implications for the use of this mechanism by other cell types to enhance cell invasion.