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Glycobiology. 2016 Jun;26(6):655-69. doi: 10.1093/glycob/cww002. Epub 2016 Jan 7.

Galectins are human milk glycan receptors.

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Department of Biochemistry, School of Medicine, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA.
Department of Biochemistry, School of Medicine, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA Department of Surgery, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, CLS 11087-3 Blackfan Circle, Boston, MA 02115, USA


The biological recognition of human milk glycans (HMGs) is poorly understood. Because HMGs are rich in galactose we explored whether they might interact with human galectins, which bind galactose-containing glycans and are highly expressed in epithelial cells and other cell types. We screened a number of human galectins for their binding to HMGs on a shotgun glycan microarray consisting of 247 HMGs derived from human milk, as well as to a defined HMG microarray. Recombinant human galectins (hGal)-1, -3, -4, -7, -8 and -9 bound selectively to glycans, with each galectin recognizing a relatively unique binding motif; by contrast hGal-2 did not recognize HMGs, but did bind to the human blood group A Type 2 determinants on other microarrays. Unlike other galectins, hGal-7 preferentially bound to glycans expressing a terminal Type 1 (Galβ1-3GlcNAc) sequence, a motif that had eluded detection on non-HMG glycan microarrays. Interactions with HMGs were confirmed in a solution setting by isothermal titration microcalorimetry and hapten inhibition experiments. These results demonstrate that galectins selectively bind to HMGs and suggest the possibility that galectin-HMG interactions may play a role in infant immunity.


galectins; glycan microarrays; glycan recognition; human milk glycans; shotgun glycomics

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