Lectins: tools for the molecular understanding of the glycocode.
Ambrosi M., Cameron NR., Davis BG.
Recent progress in glycobiology has revealed that cell surface oligosaccharides play an essential role in recognition events. More precisely, these saccharides may be complexed by lectins, carbohydrate-binding proteins other than enzymes and antibodies, able to recognise sugars in a highly specific manner. The ubiquity of lectin-carbohydrate interactions opens enormous potential for their exploitation in medicine. Therefore, extraordinary effort is made into the identification of new lectins as well as into the achievement of a deep understanding of their functions and of the precise mechanism of their association with specific ligands. In this review, a summary of the main features of lectins, particularly those found in legumes, will be presented with a focus on the mechanism of carbohydrate-binding. An overview of lectin-carbohydrate interactions will also be given, together with an insight into their energetics. In addition, therapeutic applications of lectins will be discussed.