The last decade has witnessed steadily growing support for the notion that the carbohydrate portion of glycoconjugates is not merely an inert structural addition to the protein or lipid backbone. Considerable attention has been given to the chemical composition of glycosidic residues in such heteropolymers. Sialic acids are frequently occurring components of oligosaccharide side chains in glycoconjugates of most higher animals and a few microorganisms. They appear to play an important role as ligands in glycobiological interactions. Mediation of a proposed protein-carbohydrate recognition will necessarily involve a binding protein with the respective specificity. Such proteins thus are able to serve as receptors for certain types of carbohydrate moieties like sialic acids in vivo. Various members of this class of proteins have already proven their value as analytical tools in studying expression and localization of defined sialoglycoconjugates. These proteins attract much attention due to both their functions in situ and their potential as laboratory tools in glycoconjugate research in areas like biochemistry or histology. We present a survey of the purification, characterization and application of this class of proteins to illustrate the status of knowledge and the current directions of research in this field.