Earlier work from our laboratory demonstrated that heparin inhibited the proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells in vivo and in vitro. Both anticoagulant and non-anticoagulant heparin species were equally effective as antiproliferative agents. Previous structure-function studies indicated that hexasaccharide and larger fragments retained antiproliferative activity, whereas tetra- and disaccharides were inactive. These experiments also suggested that both N- and O-sulfates of heparin were necessary for growth inhibitory capacity. In this paper, we have further analyzed the structural determinants of the antiproliferative activity of heparin. These experiments were done using synthetically prepared and therefore chemically defined heparin oligosaccharides. We present evidence that a pentasaccharide fragment retains antiproliferative activity, and that the 3-O-sulfate on the internal glucosamine residue is critical for growth inhibitory capacity of the pentasaccharide. We also show that heparins obtained from different manufacturers differ significantly in their ability to suppress smooth muscle cell proliferation.