Biotinylated lectins from Sambucus nigra (SNA) and Maackia amurensis (MAA), which bind to α2,6-linked and α2,3-linked sialyl residues, respectively, were used as probes to study glycan terminal modifications associated with decidualization in the uterine stroma of pregnant rats and mice. Binding of lectins from Erythrina cristagalli (ECA), Phaseolus vulgaris (leukoagglutinin, L-PHA), Triticum vulgaris (WGA) and Bandeiraea simplicifolia (BSA-1B4) was also examined. Tissues from rats between day 5 and day 8 of gestation and mice between day 5 and day 7 of gestation were fixed in Bouin's solution and embedded in wax prior to lectin histochemistry. On day 7 in rats and day 6 in mice, there was a marked reduction in the binding of SNA in the subluminal decidua surrounding the implantation site. In rats, MAA binding to enlarged decidual cells around the implantation chamber was increased markedly, but there was no change in mice. In both species there was de novo binding of ECA in the SNA-negative area, suggesting that the loss of α2,6-linked sialyl residues unmasks terminal N-acetyl lactosamine. These findings are consistent with previous evidence of a close structural and functional similarity between the artificially induced deciduoma and true decidua of rats and show identical changes to the glycosylation patterns previously found in differentiating rat deciduoma. In both species, therefore, decidua exhibits regionally specific terminal glycosylation. However, the species-specific expression of α2,3-linked sialyl residues suggests distinct patterns of steroidally modulated sialyl transferase expression.