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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2006 Apr;72(4):2950-6.

A new C-type lectin similar to the human immunoreceptor DC-SIGN mediates symbiont acquisition by a marine nematode.

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Vienna Ecology Centre, Department of Marine Biology, University of Vienna, Althanstrasse 14, 1090 Vienna, Austria.


Although thiotrophic symbioses have been intensively studied for the last three decades, nothing is known about the molecular mechanisms of symbiont acquisition. We used the symbiosis between the marine nematode Laxus oneistus and sulfur-oxidizing bacteria to study this process. In this association a monolayer of symbionts covers the whole cuticle of the nematode, except its anterior-most region. Here, we identify a novel Ca(2+)-dependent mannose-specific lectin that was exclusively secreted onto the posterior, bacterium-associated region of L. oneistus cuticle. A recombinant form of this lectin induced symbiont aggregation in seawater and was able to compete with the native lectin for symbiont binding in vivo. Surprisingly, the carbohydrate recognition domain of this mannose-binding protein was similar both structurally and functionally to a human dendritic cell-specific immunoreceptor. Our results provide a molecular link between bacterial symbionts and host-secreted mucus in a marine symbiosis and suggest conservation in the mechanisms of host-microbe interactions throughout the animal kingdom.

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