The fate of endogenous beta-galactoside-binding lectin of chick embryo (14K type) was investigated during the course of skin differentiation. Lectin (14K) was found in keratinized epidermis and was localized mainly in the basal and intermediate cells. However, the protein lectin in the epidermis disappeared when the cultured skin was treated with vitamin A and mucous metaplasia was observed. The synthesis of lectin mRNA was also strongly suppressed by vitamin A in a concentration-dependent manner. On the other hand, in the dermis, in which the lectin was localized in the extracellular matrix, lectin expression was scarcely affected by vitamin A. These results indicated that the lectin was expressed in the keratinized epidermis but that its expression was suppressed in vitamin A-induced mucous-secreting epithelium. The suppression may be a result of a transition of the epidermal regulatory system to one of mucous-secreting epithelium. This is the first finding that 14K lectin expression might be regulated during the course of the epidermal differentiation.