Sophoragrin, a mannose/glucose-specific lectin in Sophora japonica (Japanese pagoda tree) bark, was the first lectin found to show self-aggregation that is dependent on the sugar concentration accompanying the interconversion between solubility and insolubility [Ueno, Ogawa, Matsumoto and Seno (1991) J. Biol. Chem. 266, 3146–3153]. The interconversion is regulated by the concentrations of Ca2+ and specific sugars: mannose, glucose or sucrose. The specific glycotopes for sophoragrin were found in the sophoragrin subunit and an endogenous galactose-specific lectin, B-SJA-I (bark S. japonica agglutinin I), and the lectin subunit that binds to the glycotope was identified by photoaffinity glycan probes. Remarkably, the insoluble polymer of sophoragrin is dissociated by interaction with B-SJA-I into various soluble complexes. Based on these results, self-aggregation of sophoragrin was shown to be a unique homopolymerization due to the sugar-specific interaction. An immunostaining study indicated that sophoragrin localizes mainly in vacuoles of parenchymal cells coincidently with B-SJA-I. These results indicate that sophoragrin can sequester endogenous glycoprotein ligands via sugar-specific interactions, thus providing new insights into the occurrence and significance of the intravacuolar interaction shown by a legume lectin.

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