To investigate cell surface-associated keratan sulfate on the corneal endothelium. METHODS. Immunolabeling techniques were used at the light, scanning, and transmission electron microscopic level to localize keratan sulfate on the corneal endothelium. The investigation included human, bovine, and rabbit corneal endothelia. A quantitative study of the relationship between cell size and keratan sulfate levels was conducted on normal bovine corneal endothelium. Changes in the distribution of keratan sulfate and chondroitin sulfate on endothelial cell surfaces were investigated on organ cultured bovine corneas during endothelial wound healing. Changes in the levels of keratan sulfate during endothelial wound healing were investigated in organ cultured human corneas and in vivo in rabbit corneas. Inhibition-enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay also was used to detect keratan sulfate in the aqueous humor. RESULTS. A variegated distribution of keratan sulfate was revealed on normal human, bovine, and rabbit corneal endothelia. Some cells had high levels of keratan sulfate on their surfaces whereas others, sometimes immediately adjacent, had little or none. Wound healing experiments resulted in changes of keratan sulfate levels on the migrating endothelial cells in bovine, human, and rabbit. In wounded organ cultured bovine corneas, there was a decrease in keratan sulfate levels and an increase in chondroitin sulfate levels on migrating endothelial cells. Keratan sulfate was detected in bovine aqueous humor. CONCLUSIONS. The pattern of occurrence of keratan sulfate and chondroitin sulfate on the corneal endothelial cells in normal and wounded cornea suggests that these glycosaminoglycans have differing roles in endothelial adhesion and migration.