The concentrations of water-soluble polyuronides in apples [Malus domestica Borkh.) and pears (Pyrus communis L.) increased, but those of EDTA- and HCl-soluble polyuronides decreased during softening. Total polyuronide content decreased slightly during softening in both fruits. Depolymerization of polyuronides was observed only in the water-soluble fraction in pear fruit during softening, concomitant with an increase in polygalacturonase (PG) activity. No detectable depolymerization was observed in any of the polyuronide fractions during softening of apple fruit nor was any PG activity detected. The polyuronide fractions extracted from pear and apple cell walls contained various amounts of methoxyl groups. Polyuronides with a high degree of methoxylation were preferentially lost from EDTA- and HCl-soluble polyuronides during softening of both fruit. The water-soluble polyuronide had a lower degree of methoxylation than those lost in the EDTA- and HCl-soluble fractions. These results suggest de-esterification of polyuronides with a high degree of methoxylation rather than the depolymerization of polyuronides in the solubilization of polyuronides during ripening of apples and pears.