Cellular and Molecular Biology



A toolbox of lectins for translating the sugar code: the galectin network in phylogenesis and tumors

Herbert Kaltner and Hans-Joachim Gabius

Institute of Physiological Chemistry, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich, Germany.

Offprint requests to: H. Kaltner, VetMD, Institut für Physiologische Chemie, Tierärztliche Fakultät, Ludwig-Maximilians Universität, Veterinärstrasse 13, 80539 München, Germany. e-mail: kaltner@lmu.de

Summary. Lectin histochemistry has revealed cell-type-selective glycosylation. It is under dynamic and spatially controlled regulation. Since their chemical properties allow carbohydrates to reach unsurpassed structural diversity in oligomers, they are ideal for high density information coding. Consequently, the concept of the sugar code assigns a functional dimension to the glycans of cellular glycoconjugates. Indeed, multifarious cell processes depend on specific recognition of glycans by their receptors (lectins), which translate the sugar-encoded information into effects. Duplication of ancestral genes and the following divergence of sequences account for the evolutionary dynamics in lectin families. Differences in gene number can even appear among closely related species. The adhesion/growth-regulatory galectins are selected as an instructive example to trace the phylogenetic diversification in several animals, most of them popular models in developmental and tumor biology. Chicken galectins are identified as a low-level-complexity set, thus singled out for further detailed analysis. The various operative means for establishing protein diversity among the chicken galectins are delineated, and individual characteristics in expression profiles discerned. To apply this galectin-fingerprinting approach in histopathology has potential for refining differential diagnosis and for obtaining prognostic assessments. On the grounds of in vitro work with tumor cells a strategically orchestrated co-regulation of galectin expression with presentation of cognate glycans is detected. This coordination epitomizes the far-reaching physiological significance of sugar coding
. Histol Histopathol 27, 397-416 (2012)

Key words: Adhesion, Galectin, Glycosylation, Phylogenesis, Prognosis, Tumor Suppressor

DOI: 10.14670/HH-27.397