Lectins are glycoproteins that are found in high concentrations in most dry legume seeds (lentils, beans, peas), but also more widely in nature (other plant families, fungi and animals). Lectin is a collective term of proteins that are different from antibodies and enzymes, and specifically recognize and bind to sugar chains. Each lectin recognizes different sugar chain structures, and various lectins are known to recognize specific sugar chain structures such as mannose, galactose, sialic acid and fucose.
They are involved in various biological processes, in the recognition between cells (e. g. immune responses, infections). It is thanks to these properties that lectins are used in biotechnology and biomedical diagnostics. Here are some examples of applications using lectins:
- Haematology: determination of blood groups by agglutination of erythrocytes by lectins
- Neurology: anterograde tracing of efferent axons by PHA-I lectin
- Virology: In vitro inhibition of HIV-1 by banana lectin.
- Biochemistry and proteomics: study of glycoproteins (antibodies, cytokines, hormones, etc.) Lectins are used to purify and detect the glycoproteins with which they bind.