The Closterium peracerosum–strigosum–littorale complex is a best characterized zygnematophycean green alga with respect to the process of sexual reproduction. Intercellular communication mediated by two sex pheromones has been well documented in this organism, but information concerning direct cell–cell recognition and fusion of cells involved in conjugation processes has not yet been clarified. In this study, we examined the properties of cell surface carbohydrates in vegetative and reproductive cells using a variety of fluorescein isothiocyanate labeled lectins as probes. Among 20 lectins tested, 10 bound to the Closterium cell surface, and eight of these were specific for the cells involved in sexual reproduction. In addition, some of the lectins inhibited the progress of zygote formation. In particular, Lycopersicon esculentum lectin (LEL) and ConcanavalinA (ConA) considerably inhibited zygote formation (23.6% and 0% of zygotes formed, respectively, compared with the control). LEL mainly accumulated on conjugation papillae and on the surface and lumens of empty cell walls remaining after zygote formation. ConA bound to both vegetative and sexually reproductive cells and strongly accumulated on the conjugation papillae of the latter, indicating ConA binding material(s) are non-specifically present in Closterium cells but some of the material(s) would be essential for zygote formation. These results suggest that different carbohydrates specifically recognized by these lectins are involved in cell recognition and/or fusion during conjugation processes in the C. psl. complex.