Heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) play diverse roles in cell recognition, growth, and adhesion. In vitro studies suggest that cell-surface HSPGs act as coreceptors for heparin-binding mitogenic growth factors, Here we show that the glycosylphosphatidylinositol- (GPI-) anchored HSPG glypican-1 is strongly expressed in human pancreatic cancer, both by the cancer cells and the adjacent fibroblasts, whereas expression of glypican-1 is low in the normal pancreas and in chronic pancreatitis. Treatment of two pancreatic cancer cell lines, which express glypican-1, with the enzyme phosphoinositide-specific phospholipase-C (PI-PLC) abrogated their mitogenic responses to two heparin-binding growth factors that are commonly overexpressed in pancreatic cancer: fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2) and heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor (HB-EGF). PI-PLC did not alter the response to the non-heparin-binding growth factors EGF and IGF-1, Stable expression of a form of glypican-1 engineered to possess a transmembrane domain instead of a GPI anchor conferred resistance to the inhibitory effects of PI-PLC on growth factor responsiveness. Furthermore, transfection of a glypican-1 antisense construct attenuated glypican-1 protein levels and the mitogenic response to FGF2 and HB-ECF. We propose that glypican-1 plays an essential role in the responses of pancreatic cancer cells to certain mitogenic stimuli, that it is relatively unique in relation to other HSPGs, and that its expression by pancreatic cancer cells may be of importance in the pathobiology of this disorder.