Hyaluronan is a multifunctional glycosaminoglycan that forms the structural basis of the pericellular matrix. Hyaluronan is extruded directly through the plasma membrane by one of three hyaluronan synthases and anchored to the cell surface by the synthase or cell surface receptors such as CD44 or RHAMM. Aggregating proteoglycans and other hyaluronan-binding proteins, contribute to the material and biological properties of the matrix and regulate cell and tissue function. The pericellular matrix plays multiple complex roles in cell adhesion/de-adhesion, and cell shape changes associated with proliferation and locomotion. Time-lapse studies show that pericellular matrix formation facilitates cell detachment and mitotic cell rounding. Hyaluronan crosslinking occurs through various proteins, such as tenascin, TSG-6, inter-alpha-trypsin inhibitor, pentraxin and TSP-1. This creates higher order levels of structured hyaluronan that may regulate inflammation and other biological processes. Microvillous or filopodial membrane protrusions are created by active hyaluronan synthesis, and form the scaffold of hyaluronan coats in certain cells. The importance of the pericellular matrix in cellular mechanotransduction and the response to mechanical strain are also discussed.