Native lectins are used predominantly for applications that are based on precipitation and agglutination reactions or for mitogenic stimulation (Table 2). For numerous purposes, however, lectin derivatives are required. Thus, lectins derivatized with fluorescent dyes, gold particles or enzymes are employed for detection of glycoconjugates in tissue sections, on cells and subcellular organelles, and in investigations of intracellular pathways of protein glycosylation. Lectin binding has been used to demonstrate that membrane receptors for hormones, growth factors, neurotransmitters and toxins are glycoconjugates. Immobilized lectins, such as those that are covalently bound to Sepharose, are indispensable for the purification and isolation by affinity chromatography of glycoproteins, glycopeptides and oligosaccharides. The HLA antigen from normal human cells was first purified to homogeneity with the aid of concanavalin A-Sepharose; immunoglobulin (IgAI) can be easily distinguished from IgA2 by the use of jacalin, the lectin from the jackfruit, Artocarpus integrifolia.

Mouse and human cortical (immature) thymocytes differ markedly from the medullary (mature) ones in their surface carbohydrates, as evidenced by the fact that the former are bound and agglutinated by peanut agglutinin (PNA+ cells), whereas the latter are not (PNA~). Peanut agglutinin therefore provides easy separation of the individual thymocyte suhpop-ulations and makes it possible to examine in vitro the developmental and functional relationship between them.


Monosaccharide specificity

Main application

Jackbean (Canavalia ensiformis) Horse-gram (Dolichos biflorus) Winged pea {Lotus tetragonolobus) Peanut (Arachis hypogea)

Kidney bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) Castor bean (Ricinus communis) Soybean (Glycine max)







T cell mitogen; separation of membrane glycoproteins

Blood typing

Blood typing

Fractionation of human and mouse thymocytes; detection of polyagglutination

T cell mitogen

B cell mitogen

In immunotoxins

Purging of human bone marrow for transplantation

Concanavalin A

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