Mucoepidermoid carcinoma (MEC) corresponds to 5-12% of all salivary gland tumours, and is classified as low, intermediate or high grade. Traditionally, immunohistochemistry was considered as the complementary tool for diagnosis of salivary gland neoplasia. Lectin histochemistry has also been increasingly used in recent years. In this work, lectins were used as histochemical markers for normal and transformed parotid glands. Biopsy specimens of 15 cases diagnosed as MEC (low, intermediate and high grade) of the parotid gland were trypsin- and methanol-H(2)O(2)-treated and incubated with horseradish peroxidase (HRP)-conjugated lectins, Concanavalin A (Con A-HRP) and Ulex europeus I (UEA-I-HRP). Con A stained the neoplasic cells of MEC (all grades). In high and intermediate cases, ductal cells were weakly stained by Con A. UEA-I weakly stained normal cells of the excretory duct and neoplasic cells in high grade. Neoplasic cells in intermediate grade were moderately stained and in low grade, the cell membrane was intensely stained with UEA-I. Stroma presented a direct relation between malignancy and staining intensity for UEA-I. The results indicated that lectin histochemistry distinguished the cell biology among histological grades of MEC.