A method for the isolation of plasma membrane fractions from Xenopus oocytes has been developed, and the membranes have been characterized biochemically and morphologically. Plasma membrane complexes prepared by this procedure consisted of large sheets of the membrane, with associated vitelline envelope (a nonmembranous meshwork of fibers) and cortical (secretory) granules still attached. The morphology of cell surface microvilli and coated pits was well preserved. Cortical granules were removed by gentle homogenization in a low ionic strength medium, and integral and peripheral membrane proteins were then separated from vitelline envelopes by detergent extraction and phase separation in Triton-X-114. Biochemical characterization of the plasma membrane fractions indicated substantial levels of 5'-nucleotidase and alkaline phosphodiesterase activity associated with the oocyte cell surface, with 44-66% recovery of these markers in the final membrane preparations. Lectin blotting and lectin affinity chromatography with Concanavalin A and wheat germ agglutinin were used to characterize the major glycoprotein species associated with the plasma membrane complexes. Plasma membrane fractions prepared by this procedure should be very useful in both biochemical and morphological studies of membrane protein sorting in the Xenopus oocyte system.