Using a Japanese-eel (Anguilla japonica) gill cDNA subtraction library, two novel β-d-galactose-binding lectins were identified that belong to group VII of the animal C-type lectin family. The eel C-type lectins, termed eCL-1 and eCL-2, are simple lectins composed of 163 amino acid residues, including a 22-residue signal peptide for secretion and a single carbohydrate-recognition domain (CRD) of ∼ 130 residues typical of C-type lectins. The galactose specificity of the CRD was suggested by the presence of a QPD motif and confirmed by a competitive binding assay. Using Ruthenium Red staining, the lectins were shown to bind Ca2+ ions. SDS/PAGE showed that native eCL-1 and eCL-2have an SDS-resistant octameric structure (a tetramer of disulphide-linked dimers). Northern and Western blot analyses demonstrated high-level expression of eCL-1 and eCL-2 mRNAs and their protein products in gills from freshwater eels, which decreased markedly when the eels were transferred from freshwater to seawater. Immunohistochemistry showed that the eel lectins are localized in the exocrine mucous cells of the gill.

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