Acidified sodium chlorite cleaves isodityrosine and solubilizes covaiently bound hydroxyproline-rich material from cell walls. This has been taken as evidence that isodityrosine acts as a cross-link holding the hydroxyproline-rich glycoprotein extensin in the cell wall. However, acidified chlorite was found to cleave peptide bonds in salt-soluble extensin and in bovine serum albumin (BSA). This invalidates the use of conventional acidified chlorite treatment to provide evidence for isodityrosine cross-links. The ratio of BSA:chlorite was important in determining peptidyl cleavage. At a ratio of 0.75:1.00 (mole amino acid residues/mole chlorite), or higher, peptidyl cleavage was not detected. Furthermore, in samples where a low concentration of radioactive extensin was present, BSA substantially protected the peptide bonds of the extensin against peptidyl cleavage during treatment with acidified chlorite, while not preventing the cleavage of isodityrosine. Therefore, acidified sodium chlorite plus BSA was a more specific reagent for the cleavage of isodityrosine than was acidified chlorite alone. This modified treatment solubilized in intact form the 'covaiently bound' extensin from cell walls of Capsicum frutescens (chili pepper) suspension cultures, providing new evidence compatible with the view that extensin molecules are held in the cell wall by isodityrosine cross-links.