Sialic acid-specific lectins: occurrence, specificity and function

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2006 Jun;63(12):1331-54. doi: 10.1007/s00018-005-5589-y.


Sialic acids consist of a family of acidic nine-carbon sugars that are typically located at the terminal positions of a variety of glycoconjugates. Naturally occurring sialic acids show an immense diversity of structure, and this reflects their involvement in a variety of biologically important processes. One such process involves the direct participation of sialic acids in recognition events through specific interactions with lectins, a family of proteins that recognise and bind sugars. This review will present a detailed overview of our current knowledge regarding the occurrence, specificity and function of sialic acid-specific lectins, particularly those that occur in viruses, bacteria and non-vertebrate eukaryotes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Lectins / metabolism*
  • N-Acetylneuraminic Acid / metabolism*
  • Plants / metabolism
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Viruses / metabolism


  • Lectins
  • N-Acetylneuraminic Acid