AIMS: Glycan expression was compared in glaucomatous trabecular meshwork (TM) and normal TM in order to determine any differences which may reflect pathological changes underlying primary open angle glaucoma (POAG). METHODS: Resin embedded TM from trabeculectomy specimens from 15 eyes with POAG and from 12 eyes with normal anterior segments were probed with a panel of biotinylated lectins and an avidin-peroxidase revealing system at the light microscope level. Statistical analyses were performed on the comparative staining results. RESULTS: The lectins ConA and ePHA showed strong staining in all areas of both glaucomatous and normal TM; ePHA staining of Schlemm's canal (SC) from POAG TM was significantly less than that from normal TM (ePHA-SC p = 0.04). The lectins PSA, LCA, and SNA bound moderately strongly to SC endothelium and weakly to the endothelium of the corneoscleral meshwork (CSM); glaucomatous SC endothelial binding was significantly less than that of normal SC endothelium for PSA and LCA (PSA-SC p = 0.002, LCA-SC p = 0.002). STA and DSA showed moderately strong binding while WGA, ECA, AHA, and MPA bound weakly throughout the TM; for DSA and MPA this staining was significantly greater in POAG than in normal TM (DSA-SC p = 0.001, DSA-CSM p = 0.002, MPA-SC p = 0.01, MPA-CSM p = 0.02). Jac stained strongly throughout the TM and showed no significant difference in POAG compared with normal TM (Jac-SC p = 0.6, Jac-CSM p = 1). 1PHA, SBA, DBA, CTA, UEA-1 and LTA did not bind to glaucomatous TM or normal TM. There were no age-related changes seen. CONCLUSIONS: The expression of some complex and hybrid, bisected and non-bisected N-linked glycans is significantly diminished in glaucomatous TM compared with normal TM. Some glycans with multiple N-acetylglucosamine residues and O-linked glycans with terminal and subterminal galactosyl groups are significantly increased in POAG TM. Glycan expression does not change significantly with age in POAG or normal TM.