(1) Neurogenic inflammation has been implicated in the pathogenesis of the vascular headaches of migraine and cluster headaches. (2) Dural blood vessels are both pain-sensitive and show neurogenic plasma extravasation. (3) Endothelial cell (EC) surface anionic sites appear to be a determinant of vascular permeability. We therefore examined the anionic sites of dural EC to determine whether they are different from those of pial and parenchymal vessels. Luminal anionic sites of rat optic nerve EC were labelled with cationic colloidal gold (CCG) and cationic ferritin (CF) and examined by electron microscopy. Employing a battery of enzymes, the effects of digestion of ultrathin sections on subsequent labelling with CCG was quantified using image analysis software. In addition, a gold-labelled lectin, wheat-germ agglutinin (WGA), was employed to locate specific saccharide residues. Of the enzymes with a narrow specificity, only neuraminidase substantially reduced CCG binding. Of the proteolytic enzymes, papain was most effective in reducing labelling. These results show that the luminal EC anionic sites are chiefly composed of sialoglycoproteins. The labelling with biotinylated WGA-streptavidin gold was similar to that with CCG without enzyme digestion. This suggests that WGA is binding to N-acetylneuraminic (sialic) acid residues and not to the neutral N-acetylglucosamine (since CCG would not label uncharged molecules). These results do not differ significantly from those for pial and parenchymal EC. It is therefore likely that factors other than anionic site molecular composition account for the susceptibility of dural vessels to neurogenic plasma extravasation. The relevance of these observations in an experimental animal model to the human clinical condition remains to be determined.