The heparin-releasable proteins are a group of proteins that are targeted to the endothelial surface by attachment to glycosaminoglycans and may have functions specific to the endothelium-blood interface. In this study, heparin-affinity chromatography of human postheparin plasma was used as a method to identify and study novel heparin-releasable proteins. Six proteins seen on sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis gels have increased levels in plasma after intravenous heparin. The six proteins are platelet factor 4, midkine, pleiotrophin, and several novel proteins. Midkine and pleiotrophin are related cytokines that are developmentally regulated, neurotrophic, and mitogenic. Additional studies show that levels of midkine and pleiotrophin peak at 10 to 30 minutes after injection of heparin. Heparin-releasable midkine and pleiotrophin do not originate from blood cells or the kidney. Heparin-releasable midkine may originate from endothelial cells. Soft agar culture of an adenocarcinoma cell line (SW-13) demonstrates growth-stimulating activity similar to that described for pleiotrophin in the heparin-agarose eluate of postheparin plasma but not in the heparin-agarose eluate of preheparin plasma. It is concluded there are more heparin-releasable proteins than previously identified, including midkine and pleiotrophin, and that heparin-affinity chromatography of postheparin plasma is a useful technique for identifying novel heparin-releasable proteins.