The PC12 cell line displays cell surface receptors for both nerve growth factor (NGF) and epidermal growth factor (EGF). It has been previously shown that the lectin wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) alters the properties of NGF receptors on these cells. We now report that preincubations with either WGA or concanavalin A (Con A) decrease the binding of 125I-EGF to PC12 cells by greater than 50%. The inhibition of binding occurred at 37 degrees C and 4 degrees C and could be blocked or reversed by the addition of sugars which bind specifically to WGA or Con A. Scatchard analysis revealed that these lectins decreased binding primarily by lowering the affinity of the receptor and to a lesser extent by decreasing receptor number. Succinylation of Con A (sCon A) produced a derivative that was less effective than the native lectin in decreasing EGF binding; however, addition of an antibody against Con A restored the ability of sCon A to decrease binding. Similar to results obtained with 125I-NGF binding, WGA but not Con A was found to increase, by severalfold, the proportion of 125I-EGF binding that is resistant to solubilization by Triton X-100 detergent. A potential association of the EGF receptor with cytoskeletal elements is discussed which could account for such results.