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Cell Prolif. 2013 Oct;46(5):509-15. doi: 10.1111/cpr.12054. Epub 2013 Aug 24.

Could plant lectins become promising anti-tumour drugs for causing autophagic cell death?

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Department of Hepato-biliary Surgery, General Hospital of PLA, Beijing, 1000853, China.


Plant lectins, a group of highly diverse carbohydrate-binding proteins of non-immune origin, are ubiquitously distributed through a variety of plant species, and have recently drawn rising attention due to their remarkable ability to kill tumour cells using mechanisms implicated in autophagy. In this review, we provide a brief outline of structures of some representative plant lectins such as concanavalin A, Polygonatum cyrtonema lectin and mistletoe lectins. These can target autophagy by modulating BNIP-3, ROS-p38-p53, Ras-Raf and PI3KCI-Akt pathways, as well as Beclin-1, in many types of cancer cells. In addition, we further discuss how plant lectins are able to kill cancer cells by modulating autophagic death, for therapeutic purposes. Together, these findings provide a comprehensive perspective concerning plant lectins as promising new anti-tumour drugs, with respect to autophagic cell death in future cancer therapeutics.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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