L-selectin is a C-type lectin expressed on leukocytes that is involved in both lymphocyte homing to the lymph node and leukocyte extravasation during inflammation. Known L-selectin ligands include sulfated Lewis-type carbohydrates, glycolipids, and proteoglycans. Previously, we have shown that in situ detection of different types of L-selectin ligands is highly dependent on the tissue fixation protocol used. Here we use this knowledge to specifically examine the expression of L-selectin binding proteoglycans in normal mouse tissues. We show that L-selectin binding chondroitin/dermatan sulfate proteoglycans are present in cartilage, whereas L-selectin binding heparan sulfate proteoglycans are present in spleen and kidney. Furthermore, we show that L-selectin only binds a subset of renal heparan sulfates, attached to a collagen type XVIII protein backbone and predominantly present in medullary tubular and vascular basement membranes. As L-selectin does not bind other renal heparan sulfate proteoglycans such as perlecan, agrin, and syndecan-4, and not all collagen type XVIII expressed in the kidney binds L-selectin, this indicates that there is a specific L-selectin binding domain on heparan sulfate glycosaminoglycan chains. Using an in vitro L-selectin binding assay, we studied the contribution of N-sulfation, O-sulfation, C5-epimerization, unsubstituted glucosamine residues, and chain length in L-selectin binding to heparan sulfate/heparin glycosaminoglycan chains. Based on our results and the accepted model of heparan sulfate domain organization, we propose a model for the interaction of L-selectin with heparan sulfate glycosaminoglycan chains. Interestingly, this opens the possibility of active regulation of L-selectin binding to heparan sulfate proteoglycans, e.g. under inflammatory conditions.