Ustilago maydis is an edible parasitic basidiomycete, which specifically infects corn (Zea mays) and teocintle (Z. diploperennis). To characterise the interaction between the basidiomycete and its host organism, we tested the effect of plant lectins with well-known sugar specificity on the growth and germination of U. maydis spores. Lectins specific for N-acetyl-D-galactosamine, such as those from Dolichos biflorus and Phaseolus lunatus, and the wheatgerm agglutinin specific for N-acetyl-D-glucosamine inhibited spore germination, but were ineffective in modifying U. maydis cell growth. The galactose-specific lectin from the corn coleoptyle inhibited both germination and cell growth, while the lectin concanavalin A (mannose/glucose specific) activated spore germination and growth. Our results suggest that specific saccharide-containing receptors participate in regulating the growth and maturation of U. maydis spores.