Interactions between cells or between cell and substratum involve specificreceptors and their ligands. Among the various cell surface receptorsidentified during the last decades, the carbohydrate-binding proteins, e.g., lectins are of peculiar interest because glycolipids, glycoproteinsand proteoglycans have been shown to interact with lectins on the surfaceof animal cells. Animal lectins are recognized as molecules playingimportant roles in a variety of biological processes through binding toglycoconjugates and lectin-like receptors such as selectins, sialoadhesins(CD22, CD33), natural killer receptors (NKR-P1, CD69 and CD94/NKG2), hyaluronate receptors (CD44, RHAMM, ICAM-1), B-cell associated antigen(CD23, CD72), γ2 leukocyte integrin (CD11b/CD18) or the well-knownreceptors for mannose, mannose-6-phosphate or asialoglycoprotein havebeen suggested to be able to mediate the transfer of information fromthe outside to the inside of the cell. This review focuses on the mostrecent advances in our understanding of the molecular basis of “outside-in” signaling mediated by lectins. Lectin-likereceptors are involved in signal transduction in a great variety of ways;at the molecular level, they mimic in most of the cases the function ofgrowth factor receptor either coupled to tyrosine kinase activity or toheterotrimeric G protein. They lead to a multiplicity of cellular eventsfollowing their activation depending on factors such as cellular type, species and/or tissue. Nevertheless the potential of surface lectins astransducers is emphasized by the observation that in a few cases lectin-likereceptors induce either novel signal transduction mechanism or newintracellular events with regards to what it has been observed as aconsequence of growth factor receptor activation. This observation bringsthe idea that lectins may offer, as cell surface transducers, an alternativeor additional signaling potential to cell.

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