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Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz

Print version ISSN 0074-0276On-line version ISSN 1678-8060

Mem. Inst. Oswaldo Cruz vol.86  suppl.2 Rio de Janeiro  1991 

Plant lectins, chemical and biological aspects

Renato de Azevedo Moreira1 

Iracema Lima Ainouz1 

José Tadeu Abreu de Oliveira1 

Benildo Sousa Cavada1 

Universidade Federal do Ceará, Centro de Ciências, Departamento de Bioquímica e Biologia Molecular, Fortaleza, Brasil


Lectins, carbohydrate-binding proteins of non-immune origin, that agglutinate cells or precipitate polysaccharides and glycoconjugates, are well distributed in nature, mainly in the Plant Kingdom. The great majority of the plante lectins are present in seed cotyledons where they are found in the cytoplasm or int he protein bodies, although they have also been found in roots, stems and leaves. Due to their peculiar properties, the lectins are used as a tool both for analytical and preparative purposes in biochemistry, cellular biology, immunology and related areas. In agriculture and medicine the use of lectins greatly improved in the last few years. The lextins, with few exceptions, are glycoproteins, need divalent cations to display full activity and are, in general, oligomers with variable molecular weight. Although the studies on lectins have completed a century, their role in nature is yet ynknown . Several hypotheses on their physiological functions have been suggested. Thus, lectins could play important roles in defense against pathogens, plant-microorganism symbiosis, cell organization, embryo morphogenesis, phagocytosis, cell wall elongation, pollen recognition and as reserve proteins. A brief review on the general properties and roles of the lectins is given.


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