Tumor necrosis factor-stimulated gene-6 (TSG-6) is a hyaluronan (HA)-binding protein that plays important roles in inflammation and ovulation. TSG-6-mediated cross-linking of HA has been proposed as a functional mechanism (e.g. for regulating leukocyte adhesion), but direct evidence for cross-linking is lacking, and we know very little about its impact on HA ultrastructure. Here we used films of polymeric and oligomeric HA chains, end-grafted to a solid support, and a combination of surface-sensitive biophysical techniques to quantify the binding of TSG-6 into HA films and to correlate binding to morphological changes. We find that full-length TSG-6 binds with pronounced positive cooperativity and demonstrate that it can cross-link HA at physiologically relevant concentrations. Our data indicate that cooperative binding of full-length TSG-6 arises from HA-induced protein oligomerization and that the TSG-6 oligomers act as cross-linkers. In contrast, the HA-binding domain of TSG-6 (the Link module) alone binds without positive cooperativity and weaker than the full-length protein. Both the Link module and full-length TSG-6 condensed and rigidified HA films, and the degree of condensation scaled with the affinity between the TSG-6 constructs and HA. We propose that condensation is the result of protein-mediated HA crosslinking. Our findings firmly establish that TSG-6 is a potent HA cross-linking agent and might hence have important implications for the mechanistic understanding of the biological function of TSG-6 (e.g. in inflammation). © 2011 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.