The extracellular matrix (ECM) surrounding the anuran egg is composed of jelly coat layers, an envelope, and the perivitelline space, which separates the envelope from the egg plasma membrane. Both the jelly coat layers and egg envelopes are required for fertilization in anurans. This paper reviews the current understanding of the structure-function relations of the ECM, with emphasis on the egg envelope. The fibrous egg envelope exists in four related forms. The envelope forms differ in their ultrastructures, macromolecular compositions, and cellular functions. After the oocyte is released from the ovary, conversion of one envelope form to another is brought about by factors secreted by the oviduct prior to fertilization and by factors released from the egg in the sperm-triggered cortical reaction. An additional extracellular matrix structure, located in the perivitelline space, has recently been identified in Xenopus laevis, as well as a previously undescribed reorganization of envelope fibers occurring at fertilization. The molecular changes in the ECM glycoproteins (limited proteolysis, lectin-ligand binding, and conformational changes) and the oviductal and egg macromolecules responsible for the conversion of envelope forms are discussed. New experimental evidence that supports the lectin-ligand hypothesis for the formation of the fertilization layer is presented. It is proposed that the molecular changes in the ECM are responsible for the ultrastructural alterations of the ECM and for modifications of the fertilization and developmental functions of the anuran egg ECM.