Abstract Owing to the use of quantum dots in biological labeling, and the specific interaction of lectins with tumor cells, studies on lectin-QDs interaction are of potential interest. Herein, we report a facile method to prepare zinc sulfide quantum dots (ZnS QDs) using pectin as a capping agent and studied their interaction with snake gourd seed lectin (SGSL) by fluorescence spectroscopy. The QDs were characterized by X-ray diffraction, high-resolution transmission electron microscopy, UV-Vis absorption and fluorescence spectroscopy. The thermodynamic forces governing the interaction between ZnS-QDs and SGSL have been delineated from the temperature dependent association constant. These results suggest that the binding between ZnS QDs and SGSL is governed by enthalpic forces with negative entropic contribution. The red shift of synchronous fluorescence spectra showed that the microenvironment around the tryptophan residues of SGSL was perturbed by ZnS-QDs. The obtained results suggest that the development of optical bioimaging agents by using the conjugated lectin-QDs would be possible to diagnose cancerous tissues. © 2015 Elsevier B.V.