Significant differences in function have been observed among lectins structurally similar to concanavalin A, but their high homology with this widely used lectin has kept them in obscurity. The observation of large differences in the potency of many of these Diocleinae lectins as stimulators of Interferon-g production by human peripheral blood mononuclear cells has lead to a major effort to unravel their chemical structure and biological activity. Modeling studies of some of these lectins reveal conformational changes in side chains of some residues involved in the carbohydrate-binding site, with possible effects on the ability of these proteins to recognize specific carbohydrate structures. Additionally, all them constitute in fact a mixture of isolectins, which in different proportions could lead to diverse effects. The present review of the biological actions of Diocleinae lectins includes several in vitro and in vivo immunological findings, as well as their effects on insect growth and reproduction. In these systems Diocleinae lectins proved to be quite diverse in their potency. Such diversity in the biological activity of highly related proteins recalls the origin of the name protein: like Proteus, the capability of assuming various forms is the essential feature of this class of molecules.
Keywords: Diocleinae Subtribe Lectins, nitrogen-fixing bacteria, x-ray crystallography, jelly-roll motif, dimer-tetramer equilibria
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