Fibroblast growth factor (FGF)-2 regulates chondrocyte proliferation in the growth plate. Heparan sulfate (HS) proteoglycans bind FGF-2. Perlecan, a heparan sulfate proteoglycan (HSPG) in the developing growth plate, however, contains both HS and chondroitin sulfate (CS) chains. The binding of FGF-2 to perlecan isolated from the growth plate was evaluated using cationic filtration (CAF) and immunoprecipitation (IP) assays. FGF-2 bound to perlecan in both the CAF and IP assays primarily via the HS chains on perlecan. A maximum of 123 molecules of FGF-2 was calculated to bind per molecule of perlecan. When digested with chondroitinase ABC to remove its CS chains, perlecan augmented binding of FGF-2 to the FGFR-1 and FGFR-3 receptors and also increased FGF-2 stimulation of [(3)H]-thymidine incorporation in BaF3 cells expressing these FGF receptors. These data show that growth plate perlecan binds to FGF-2 by its HS chains but can only deliver FGF-2 to FGF receptors when its CS chains are removed.