The exposure and accessibility of the tryptophan residues in the chitooligosaccharide-specific pumpkin (Cucurbita maxima) phloem exudate lectin (PPL) have been investigated by fluorescence spectroscopy. The emission lambda(max) of native PPL, seen at 338nm was red-shifted to 348nm upon denaturation by 6M Gdn.HCl in the presence of 10mM beta-mercaptoethanol, indicating near complete exposure of the tryptophan residues to the aqueous medium, whereas a blue-shift to 335nm was observed in the presence of saturating concentrations of chitotriose, suggesting that ligand binding leads to a decrease in the solvent exposure of the tryptophan residues. The extent of quenching was maximum with the neutral molecule, acrylamide whereas the ionic species, iodide and Cs(+) led to significantly lower quenching, which could be attributed to the presence of charged amino acid residues in close proximity to some of the tryptophan residues. The Stern-Volmer plot for acrylamide was linear for native PPL and upon ligand binding, but became upward curving upon denaturation, indicating that the quenching occurs via a combination of static and dynamic mechanisms. In time-resolved fluorescence experiments, the decay curves could be best fit to biexponential patterns, for native protein, in the presence of ligand and upon denaturation. In each case both lifetimes systematically decreased with increasing acrylamide concentrations, indicating that quenching occurs predominantly via a dynamic process.