The macromolecular surface components involved in intraspecific cell surface interactions of the green microalga Chlorella vulgaris and closely associated bacteria were investigated. The specific surface attachment between this alga and its associated bacteria is mediated by lectin-like macromolecules associated with the surfaces of these cells. The binding activity of these surface polymers was inhibited by specific simple sugars; this suggests the involvement of specific receptor-ligand binding sites on the interactive surfaces. Epifluorescent microscopic evaluation of bacteria-alga interactions in the presence and absence of the macromolecules that mediate these interactions showed that the glycoproteins active in these processes were specific to the microbial sources from which they were obtained. The demonstration and definition of the specificity of these interactions in mixed microbial populations may play an important role in our understanding of the dynamics of marine microbial populations in the sea.