Peritrophic membrane (PM) lines the gut of many arthropods and other animals, and thus separates ingested food from the gut epithelium. Its main functions are connected with its partitioning of the gut lumen into regions between which the transfer of large macromolecules and other particles is limited by its permeability properties. In the context of vaccinating mammalian hosts against parasitic arthropods. PM may either restrict penetration of ingested immune effector components within the parasite, or serve as a target for immunological attack. The properties of PM that are relevant to these potential roles--its site and mode of formation, structure, chemical composition and permeability--are reviewed with reference to ectoparasitic insects. Recent experiments, in which sheep were vaccinated with extracts of PM from larvae of the sheep blowfly, Lucilia cuprina, are outlined. Antibodies ingested from vaccinated sheep slowed the growth of L. cuprina larvae. These antibodies bound specifically to the PM, reducing its permeability and thereby perhaps hampering utilization of food by larvae. The potential for vaccination against parasitic arthropods using antigens from their PMs is discussed.