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J Immunol. 2001 Oct 15;167(8):4504-10.

An ancient lectin-dependent complement system in an ascidian: novel lectin isolated from the plasma of the solitary ascidian, Halocynthia roretzi.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Internal Medicine II, Fukushima Medical University School of Medicine, Fukushima, Japan.


Mannose-binding lectin (MBL) is a C-type lectin involved in the first line of host defense against pathogens and it requires MBL-associated serine protease (MASP) for activation of the complement lectin pathway. To elucidate the origin and evolution of MBL, MBL-like lectin was isolated from the plasma of a urochordate, the solitary ascidian Halocynthia roretzi, using affinity chromatography on a yeast mannan-Sepharose. SDS-PAGE of the eluted proteins revealed a major band of approximately 36 kDa (p36). p36 cDNA was cloned from an ascidian hepatopancreas cDNA library. Sequence analysis revealed that the carboxy-terminal half of the ascidian lectin contains a carbohydrate recognition domain (CRD) that is homologous to C-type lectin, but it lacks a collagen-like domain that is present in mammalian MBLs. Purified p36 binds specifically to glucose but not to mannose or N-acetylglucosamine, and it was designated glucose-binding lectin (GBL). The two ascidian MASPs associated with GBL activate ascidian C3, which had been reported to act as an opsonin. The removal of GBL-MASPs complex from ascidian plasma using Ab against GBL inhibits C3-dependent phagocytosis. These observations strongly suggest that GBL acts as a recognition molecule and that the primitive complement system, consisting of the lectin-proteases complex and C3, played a major role in innate immunity before the evolution of an adaptive immune system in vertebrates.

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