We show that lipophosphoglycan (LPG) on the surface of amastigotes of Leishmania major is antigenically and biochemically distinct from promastigote LPG. A rabbit antiserum raised against the amastigote integral membrane fraction detected LPG spanning the region of Mr 55,000-100,000 on Western blots of the amastigote integral membrane fraction, but did not recognize the promastigote integral membrane fraction. WIC 79.3, a monoclonal antibody which recognizes L. major metacyclic promastigote LPG, did not recognize the amastigote integral membrane fraction on Western blots. The antigen recognized by this rabbit antiserum was shown to be LPG by its migration pattern on SDS-PAGE, the presence of terminal galactose residues, recognition by a monoclonal antibody to LPG, WIC 108.3, the biosynthetic incorporation of label from [3H]glucose and [32P]phosphate, a hydrophobic chromatography elution profile similar to promastigote LPG, and the presence of a lipid anchor sensitive to phosphatidylinositol-specific phospholipase C. The temporal regulation of LPG expression during parasite differentiation was studied in vitro. During amastigote-to-promastigote transformation, the amastigote-specific form of LPG disappeared after subculture at 48 h. The WIC 79.3 epitope was not detected by Western blotting on transforming parasites until 48 h in culture. During promastigote-to-amastigote transformation, the amastigote-specific form of LPG was detected 12 h after infection. WIC 79.3 epitopes gradually diminished over 48 h. The results demonstrate the developmentally regulated expression of an antigenically distinct LPG on amastigotes of L. major.