When keratinocytes derived from different squamous epithelia are cultured in the absence of vitamin A, they form cross-linked envelopes during the last stage of terminal differentiation. Addition of the vitamin inhibits envelope formation, but the degree of inhibition is not the same for different keratinocyte subtypes. In the presence of low concentrations of retinyl acetate, conjunctival keratinocytes form virtually no cross-linked envelopes; esophageal and vaginal keratinocytes are less sensitive to the vitamin, and epidermal keratinocytes are the least sensitive. The suppression of cross-linked envelope formation is not associated with a proportional decrease in the concentration of involucrin, a precursor of the envelope, but occurs at the level of cross-linking itself, a process dependent on an increase in the intracellular concentration of calcium ions. Keratinocytes in which spontaneous envelope cross-linking has been prevented by retinyl acetate promptly form cross-linked envelopes if Ca2+ is introduced into the cytoplasm.