Mannose-specific lectins with high sequence similarity to jacalin and the Maclura pomifera agglutinin have been isolated from species belonging to the families Moraceae, Convolvulaceae, Brassicaceae, Asteraceae, Poaceae and Musaceae. Although these novel mannose-specific lectins are undoubtedly related to the galactose-specific Moraceae lectins there are several important differences. Apart from the obvious differences in specificity, the mannose- and galactose-specific jacalin-related lectins differ in what concerns their biosynthesis and processing, intracellular location and degree of oligomerization of the protomers. Taking into consideration that the mannose-specific lectins are widely distributed in higher plants, whereas their galactose-specific counterparts are confined to a subgroup of the Moraceae sp. one can reasonably assume that the galactose-specific Moraceae lectins are a small-side group of the main family. The major change that took place in the structure of the binding site of the diverging Moraceae lectins concerns a proteolytic cleavage close to the N-terminus of the protomer. To corroborate the impact of this change, the specificity of jacalin was re-investigated using surface plasmon resonance analysis. This approach revealed that in addition to galactose and N-acetylgalactosamine, the carbohydrate-binding specificity of jacalin extends to mannose, glucose, N-acetylmuramic acid and N-acetylneuraminic acid. Owing to this broad carbohydrate-binding specificity, jacalin is capable of recognizing complex glycans from plant pathogens or predators.

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