Plant lectins, carbohydrate-binding proteins distributed widely in a variety of plant species, have been wellknown to possess a broad range of significant biological functions such as anti-tumor, anti-fungal and anti-viral activities. Amongst the seven major lectin families, legume lectins have been drawing a rising attention for cancer biologists due to their remarkable anti-tumor properties compared to other lectin families. In this review, we mainly focus on analyzing the anti-tumor activities of Concanavalin A (ConA), the first and most typical representative of legume lectin family, and its related mechanisms of cell death implicated in apoptosis and autophagy. We present the up-to-date experimental advancements that ConA is able to induce cancer cell apoptosis through mitochondria-dependent and p73-mediated pathways, as well as ConA can induce cancer cell autophagy through a mitochondria-dependent signaling pathway. In addition, we further discuss the pre-clinical studies of ConA for its potential cancer therapeutic applications. In conclusion, these findings may shed light on the complicated molecular mechanisms of ConA-induced cancer cell death, thereby opening a new perspective for plant lectins as potential anti-neoplastic drugs in future cancer therapeutics.
Keywords: Apoptosis, autophagy, cancer, concanavalin A (ConA), legume lectin, plant lectin, carbohydrate-binding proteins, (ConA), canonical legume lectin dimer, anti-neoplastic drug, Programmed Cell death, PCD, reactive oxygen species, ROS, macroautophagy, microautophagy, chaperone-mediated autophagy
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