Using several biochemical approaches, we have characterized the relatedness of the various glycoprotein components of the bovine epidermal desomosome. Sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoretic analysis of purified epidermal desmosomes reveals 12 proteins, of which 8 are glycosylated. Analysis with monoclonal antibodies indicates that the 8 glycoproteins comprise 3 antigenically distinct protein families. Members of the highest molecular weight glycoprotein family (a triplet of Mr = 150,000) were not distinguishable by partial proteolytic peptide mapping. At least 6 different monoclonal antibodies have been identified that recognize unique antigenic determinants shared by these proteins. Members of a 97,000-118,000-dalton glycoprotein family (about 4 bands) generate very similar but not identical partial proteolytic peptide maps. At least 3 different monoclonal antibodies have been identified that recognize unique antigenic determinants shared by these proteins. A Mr = 22,000 glycoprotein is immunologically unrelated to either of the high molecular weight glycoprotein families. Lectin-binding profiles indicate that within each immunologically related family the glycoproteins are similar in their oligosaccharide composition. Some lectins distinguish among the families. These glycoproteins probably mediate the specific intercellular recognition and adhesive functions of the desmosome.