Spiral secondary walls are found in hyaline cells of Sphagnum, in the elaters of most liverworts, and in elaters of the hornwort Megaceros. Recent studies on these cells suggest that cytoskeletal and ultrastructural processes involved in cell differentiation and secondary wall formation are similar in bryophytes and vascular plant tracheary elements. To examine differences in wall structure, primary and secondary wall constituents of the hyaline cells of Sphagnum novo-zelandicum and elaters of the liverwort Radula buccinifera and the hornwort Megaceros gracilis were analyzed by immunohistochemical and chemical methods. Anti-arabinogalactan-protein antibodies, JIM8 and JIM13, labeled the central fibrillar secondary wall layer of Megaceros elaters and the walls of Sphagnum leaf cells, but did not label the walls of Radula elaters. The CCRC-M7 antibody, which detects an arabinosylated (1-->6)-linked beta-galactan epitope, exclusively labeled hyaline cells in Sphagnum leaves and the secondary walls of Radula elaters. Anti-pectin antibodies, LM5 and JIM5, labeled the primary wall in Megaceros elaters. LM5 also labeled the central layer of the secondary wall but only during formation. In Radula elaters, JIM5 and another anti-pectin antibody, JIM7, labeled the primary wall. The distribution of arabinogalactan-proteins and pectic polysaccharides restricted to specific wall types and stages of development provides evidence for the developmental and functional regulation of cell wall composition in bryophytes. Monosaccharide-linkage analysis of Sphagnum leaf cell walls suggests they contain polysaccharides similar to those of higher plants. The most abundant linkage was 4-Glc, typical of cellulose, but there was also evidence for xyloglucans, 4-linked mannans, 4-linked xylans and rhamnogalacturonan-type polysaccharides.