The mucosa of the esophagus consists of stratified squamous epithelium that has a considerable resistance to injury. Intercellular glycoconjugates appear to constitute a major permeability barrier in the superficial portion of the esophageal mucosa. In the present study, we used a panel of lectins to investigate the differences in glycoconjugate production among different mammalian species. A battery of 12 lectins was used to study binding in sections from the esophagus of 6 mammalian species, including man. In general, the strongest staining was obtained in the stratum superficiale and the weakest staining in the stratum germinativum. In rabbit esophagus, exposure to pepsin/HCl produced a superficial damage to the epithelium, a considerable decrease in electrical resistance and a decreased staining of the esophageal epithelium with selected lectins. Pretreatment of the esophageal mucosa with sucrose octasulfate, a compound with protective properties, prevented, to some extent, the decrease in resistance and lectin staining.