Matrix metalloproteinases release intact syndecan-1 ectodomains from the cell surface giving rise to a soluble, shed form of the proteoglycan. Although it is known that shed syndecan-1 controls diverse pathophysiological responses in cancer, wound healing, inflammation, infection, and immunity, the mechanisms regulating shedding remain unclear. We have discovered that the heparan sulfate chains present on syndecan core proteins suppress shedding of the proteoglycan. Syndecan shedding is dramatically enhanced when the heparan sulfate chains are enzymatically degraded or absent from the core protein. Exogenous heparan sulfate or heparin does not inhibit shedding, indicating that heparan sulfate must be attached to the core protein to suppress shedding. Regulation of shedding by heparan sulfate occurs in multiple cell types, for both syndecan-1 and syndecan-4 and in murine and human syndecans. Mechanistically, the loss of heparan sulfate enhances the susceptibility of the core protein to proteolytic cleavage by matrix metalloproteinases. Enhanced shedding of syndecan-1 following loss of heparan sulfate is accompanied by a dramatic increase in core protein synthesis. This suggests that in response to an increase in the rate of shedding, cells attempt to maintain a significant level of syndecan-1 on the cell surface. Together these data indicate that the amount of heparan sulfate present on syndecan core proteins regulates both the rate of syndecan shedding and core protein synthesis. These findings assign new functions to heparan sulfate chains, thereby broadening our understanding of their physiological importance and implying that therapeutic inhibition of heparan sulfate degradation could impact the progression of some diseases. © 2012 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.