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J Biol Chem. 2004 Jul 30;279(31):32728-36. Epub 2004 May 15.

Nucleic acid is a novel ligand for innate, immune pattern recognition collectins surfactant proteins A and D and mannose-binding lectin.

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  • 1MRC Immunochemistry Unit, Department of Biochemistry, The University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3QU, United Kingdom.


Collectins are a family of innate immune proteins that contain fibrillar collagen-like regions and globular carbohydrate recognition domains (CRDs). The CRDs of these proteins recognize various microbial surface-specific carbohydrate patterns, particularly hexoses. We hypothesized that collectins, such as pulmonary surfactant proteins (SPs) SP-A and SP-D and serum protein mannose-binding lectin, could recognize nucleic acids, pentose-based anionic phosphate polymers. Here we show that collectins bind DNA from a variety of origins, including bacteria, mice, and synthetic oligonucleotides. Pentoses, such as arabinose, ribose, and deoxyribose, inhibit the interaction between SP-D and mannan, one of the well-studied hexose ligands for SP-D, and biologically relevant d-forms of the pentoses are better competitors than the l-forms. In addition, DNA and RNA polymer-related compounds, such as nucleotide diphosphates and triphosphates, also inhibit the carbohydrate binding ability of SP-D, or approximately 60 kDa trimeric recombinant fragments of SP-D that are composed of the alpha-helical coiled-coil neck region and three CRDs (SP-D(n/CRD)) or SP-D(n/CRD) with eight GXY repeats (SPD(GXY)(8)(n/CRD)). Direct binding and competition studies suggest that collectins bind nucleic acid via their CRDs as well as by their collagen-like regions, and that SP-D binds DNA more effectively than do SP-A and mannose-binding lectin at physiological salt conditions. Furthermore, the SP-D(GXY)(8)(n/CRD) fragments co-localize with DNA, and the protein competes the interaction between propidium iodide, a DNA-binding dye, and apoptotic cells. In conclusion, we show that collectins are a new class of proteins that bind free DNA and the DNA present on apoptotic cells by both their globular CRDs and collagen-like regions. Collectins may therefore play an important role in decreasing the inflammation caused by DNA in lungs and other tissues.

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