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Dev Comp Immunol. 1999 Jun-Jul;23(4-5):401-20.

C-type lectins and galectins mediate innate and adaptive immune functions: their roles in the complement activation pathway.

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Center for Marine Biotechnology, University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute, Baltimore 21202, USA.


In recent years, a 'new' pathway for complement activation mediated by the mannose-binding lectin (MBL) has been described as a key mechanism for the mammalian acute phase response to infection. This complement activation pathway is initiated by a non-self recognition step: the binding of a humoral C-type lectin [mannose-binding lectin (MBL)] to microbial surfaces bearing 'foreign' carbohydrate determinants. The recognition factor, MBL, is associated with a serine protease [MBL-associated serine protease (MASP)] which, upon MBL binding to the microbial ligand, activates the complement component C3, leading to either (a) phagocytosis of the opsonized target via the complement receptor, or (b) humoral cell killing via assembly of the membrane attack complex. Galectins (formerly known as S-type lectins) modulate activity of the complement receptor 3 (CR3), the macrophage membrane receptor for complement components C3b and iC3b, downstream products of the MBL pathway which are covalently bound to 'target cells. Galectins also mediate macrophage- and dendrocyte-adhesion to lymphocytes activated by signaling through another C-type lectin, the L-selectin, leading to immunoglobulin-mediated responses. Thus, the functional interplay of MBL, galectins and L-selectin in the acute phase response neutralizes the microbial challenge, and lead to further adaptive immunity. Although the observation of various components of the lectin pathway in different invertebrate species demonstrates the high conservation and ancient roots of the components of innate immunity, there has previously been no evidence supporting the possibility that the integral lectin-mediated complement activation pathway is present in invertebrates. We now have evidence for the coexistence of homologs of all the pathway's key components (MBL, MASP, C3, and galectin) in the protochordate Clavelina picta, suggesting the lectin-mediated pathway of complement activation preceded the immunoglobulin pathway in evolution. Therefore, despite being 'new' to the textbooks, experimental evidence indicates that this pathway is ancient, and has been conserved intact throughout its evolution.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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