We have examined immunocytochemically the expression, localization and in vivo function of a calcium-dependent and galactose-binding 14 × 10(3) Mr lectin purified from the budding tunicate, Polyandrocarpa misakiensis. Lectin granules first appeared in the inner epithelium of a double-walled bud vesicle. Soon after the bud entered the developmental phase, the granules were secreted into the mesenchymal space, where the lectin-positive extracellular matrix (ECM) developed. The lectin was also produced and secreted by granular leucocytes during budding. Hemoblasts, pluripotent stem cells in the blood, were often found in association with the ECM and they aggregated with epithelial cells to form organ rudiments. The lectin showed a high binding affinity for hemoblast precursors. The blockage of epithelial transformation of stem cells by galactose in in vivo bioassy was ineffective in the presence of the lectin. Polyclonal anti-lectin antibody prevented the hemoblasts spreading on the ECM and moving toward the epithelium, but it did not block the cell-cell adhesion of hemoblasts. By three days of bud development, lectin granules and ECM have almost disappeared from the developing bud together with a cessation of hemoblast aggregation. These results show that Polyandrocarpa lectin is a component of the ECM induced specifically in budding and suggest strongly that it plays a role in bud morphogenesis by directing the migration of pluripotent stem cells to the epithelium.