Alginate-polylysine (PLL) capsules are commonly applied for immunoprotection of endocrine tissues. Alginate is composed of mannuronic acid (M) and guluronic acid (G). Different types of alginate have different ratios of G to M, but little is known of the influence of these differences on biocompatibility. Therefore, we have investigated in vivo the effect of the G-content of the alginate on the biocompatibility of the capsules. Capsules prepared of commercially available alginates with either a high or an intermediate G-content were implanted in the peritoneal cavity of rats and retrieved one month later for histological evaluation. The fibrotic reaction was more severe against high-G alginate capsules than to intermediate-G alginate capsules. The majority of the high-G capsules proved to be overgrown and adherent to the abdominal organs whereas with intermediate-G alginate most capsules were found freely floating in the peritoneal cavity and free of any adhesion of cells. This was not caused by the alginate as such but rather by inadequate binding of high-G alginate to PLL since in the absence of PLL, i.e. with beads instead of capsules, no fibrotic reaction was observed. As high-G alginates have beneficial effects for islet encapsulation, efforts should be made to apply polycations which more effectively interact with high-G alginate than PLL. (C) 1997 Elsevier Science Limited.