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Many studies have described the adherence of Candida albicans to epithelial cells but little is known about Candida parapsilosis adhesion and its role in host cell surface recognition. This study was designed to evaluate the correlation between the adherence of 20 C. albicans and 12 C. parapsilosis strains to human buccal epithelial cells and the expression of fungal cell surface carbohydrates using lectin histochemistry. Adherence assays were carried out by incubating epithelial cells in yeast suspensions (107 cells ml−1) and peroxidase conjugated lectins (Con A, WGA, UEA I and PNA at 25 μg ml−1) were used for lectin histochemistry. The results showed that adherence was overall greater for C. albicans than for C. parapsilosis (P < 0.01) and that the individual strain differences correlated with a high content of cell surface α-l-fucose residues as indicated by the UEA I staining pattern. Based on the saccharide specificity of the lectins used, these results suggest that l-fucose residues on cell surface glycoconjugates may represent recognition molecules for interactions between the yeast strain studied and the host (r = 0.6985, P = 0.0045). In addition, our results indicated the presence of α-d-glucose/α-d-mannose, N-acetyl-d-glucosamine/N-acetylneuraminic acid and d-galactose/N-acetyl-d-galactosamine in fungal cell wall.