Ultrastructural investigations (SEM, TEM) combined with lectin-binding analysis, have revealed concurrent modifications in tegumentary structure and surface glycoconjugates during the establishment and differentiation of Echinococcus multilocularis metacestodes in jirds. The laminated layer, which is amorphous and rich in polysaccharides when initially secreted by the young cyst, takes on a different appearance and has a different glycoconjugate composition according to whether the cyst becomes fertile or sterile. The laminated layer of fertile cysts transforms into a microfibrillar matrix, the protein content of which may increase while sugar content decreases during protoscolex differentiation. Independently of this structure, brood capsules, from which arise protoscoleces, are formed by invagination of the cyst tegument. The intense secretion of glycoconjugates from the brood capsule wall during invagination may serve to interact with host factors passing through the laminated layer. The combined use of ultrastructural study and lectin labelling has allowed the demonstration of an ultrastructural and biochemical gradient of differentiation of the protoscolex. Seven stages of differentiation have been described. The possibility that the excreted-secreted tegumentary glycoconjugates, revealed by lectin labelling during protoscolex differentiation, might be the gradual biochemical expression of one or several stimuli implicated in the phenomenon of protoscolex maturation, is discussed.