Lectins, discovered more than 100 years ago and defined by their ability to selectively recognise specific carbohydrate structures, are ubiquitous in living organisms. Their precise functions are as yet under-explored and incompletely understood but they are clearly involved, through recognition of their binding partners, in a myriad of biological mechanisms involved in cell identity, adhesion, signalling and growth regulation in health and disease. Understanding the complex ‘sugar code’ represented by the ‘glycome’ is a major challenge and at the forefront of current biological research. Lectins have been widely employed in histochemical studies to map glycosylation in cells and tissues. Here, a brief history of the discovery of lectins and early developments in their use is presented along with a selection of some of the most interesting and significant discoveries to emerge from use of lectin histochemistry. Further, an evaluation of the next generation of lectin-based technologies is presented, including the potential for designing recombinant lectins with more precisely defined binding characteristics, linking lectin-based studies with other technologies to answer fundamental questions in glycobiology, and approaches to exploring the interactions of lectins with their binding partners in more detail.
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Brooks, Susan Ann
Department of Biological and Medical Sciences
Year of publication: 2022Date of RADAR deposit: 2021-10-27
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