Lectins are proteins or glycoproteins of non-immune origin capable of binding to one or more specific sugar residues. The potential for using lectins as a means of 'anchoring' a drug delivery system to the mucosal surfaces of the eye has been investigated in previous work, with the lectins from Solanum tuberosum and Helix pomatia showing particular promise. In this study the acute local dermal irritancy of these lectins, in terms of their potential to cause inflammation and tissue necrosis, was investigated. After an initial study in terminally anaesthetised animals (to ensure no gross toxicity was evident), five male New Zealand white rabbits from the same litter were briefly anaesthetised and Evans blue injected intravenously as a marker of inflammation. Sterile lectin solutions in normal saline at a range of concentrations from 50 to 500 microg ml(-1) were prepared and 50-microl volumes injected intradermally at 18 sites across a shaved area of each rabbit's back. The rabbits were then allowed to regain consciousness. There was no evidence of tissue necrosis, oedema or Evans blue infiltration with any of the lectin solutions administered. The rabbits did not display any signs of discomfort such as scratching or continued grooming throughout the experiment. Histological examination of the injection sites revealed little sign of any inflammation, such as heterophil migration, oedema or tissue damage. It was concluded that these lectins demonstrate minimal acute irritancy, and will, therefore, be taken forward for formulation and in vivo studies.