Lipocalins, small extracellular hydrophobic molecule carriers, can be internalized by a variety of different cells. However, to date receptors have only been identified for human lipocalins. Here, we specifically investigated uptake mechanisms for lipocalins ß-lactoglobulin and Fel d 4 in HeLa and Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells. We provide evidence that cell surface heparan sulphate proteoglycan is essential for internalization of these lipocalins. In HeLa cells, lipocalin uptake was inhibited by competition with soluble heparin, enzymatic digestion of cellular heparan sulphate by heparinase and inhibition of its biosynthesis by sodium chlorate. Biochemical studies by heparin affinity chromatography and colocalization studies further supported a role of heparan sulphate proteoglycan in lipocalin uptake. Finally, lipocalin uptake was blocked in CHO mutant cells defective in glycosaminoglycan biosynthesis whereas in wild-type cells it was clearly detectable. Thus, cell surface heparan sulphate proteoglycan represents a novel component absolutely participating in the cellular uptake of some lipocalins.