Abstract A high-affinity heparin subfraction accounting for 8% of whole heparin from bovine lung was isolated by low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-affinity chromatography. When compared to whole heparin, the high-affinity subfraction was relatively higher in molecular weight (11 000 vs. 17 000) and contained more iduronyl sulfate as hexuronic acid (76% vs. 86%), N-sulfate ester (0.75 vs. 0.96 mol/mol hexosamine), and O-sulfate ester (1.51 vs. 1.68 mol/mol hexosamine). Although both heparin preparations formed insoluble complexes with LDL quantitatively in the presence of 30 mM Ca 2+, the concentrations of NaCl required for 50% reduction in maximal insoluble complex formation was markedly higher with high-affinity subfraction (0.55 M vs. 0.04 M). When compared to complex of 125I-LDL and whole heparin (H- 125I-LDL), complex of 125I-LDL and high-affinity heparin subfraction (HAH- 125I-LDL) produced marked increase in the degradation of lipoproteins by macrophages (7-fold vs. 1.4-fold over native LDL, after 5 h incubation) as well as cellular cholesteryl ester synthesis (16.7-fold vs. 2.2-fold over native LDL, after 18 h incubation) and content (36-fold vs. 2.7-fold over native LDL, after 48 h incubation). After a 5 h incubation, macrophages accumulated 2,3-fold more cell-associated radioactivity from HAH- 125I-LDL complex than from [ 125I]acetyl-LDL. While unlabeled HAH-LDL complex produced a dose-dependent inhibition of the degradation of labeled complex, native unlabeled LDL did not elicit any effect even at a 20-fold excess concentration. Unlabeled particulate LDL aggregate completed for 33% of degradation of labeled complex; however, cytochalasin D, known inhibitor of phagocytosis, did not effectively inhibit the degradation of labeled complex. Unlabeled acetyl-LDL produced a partial (33%) inhibition of the degradation of labeled complex. These results indicate that (1) the interaction of high-affinity heparin subfraction with LDL leads to scavenger receptor mediated endocytosis of the lipoprotein, and stimulation of cholesteryl ester synthesis and accumulation in the macrophages; and (2) with respect to macrophage recognition and uptake, HAH-LDL complex was similar but not identical to acetyl-LDL. These observations may have implications for atherogenesis, because both mast cells and endothelial cells can synthesize heparin in the arterial wall.