Concept, strategy and realization of lectin-based glycan profiling

J Biochem. 2008 Aug;144(2):139-47. doi: 10.1093/jb/mvn043. Epub 2008 Apr 4.


Lectins are a diverse group of carbohydrate-binding proteins. Each lectin has its own specificity profile. It is believed that lectins exist in all living organisms that produce glycans. From a practical viewpoint, lectins have been used extensively in biochemical fields including proteomics due to their usefulness as detection and enrichment tools for specific glycans. Nevertheless, they have often been underestimated as probes, especially compared with antibodies, because of their low affinity and broad specificity. However, together with the concept of glycomics, such properties of lectins are now considered to be suitable for the task of 'profiling' in order to cover a wider range of ligands. Recently there has been rapid movement in the field of proteomics aimed at the investigation of glycan-related biomarkers. This is partly because of limitations of the present approach of simply following changes in protein-level expression, without paying sufficient attention to the fact and effects of glycosylation. The trend is reflected in the frequent use of lectins in the contexts of glycoprotein enrichment and glycan profiling. However, there are many aspects to be considered in using lectins, which differ considerably from antibodies. In this article, the author, as a developer of two unique methodologies, frontal affinity chromatography (FAC) and the lectin microarray, describes critical points concerning the use of lectins, together with the concept, strategy and means to achieve advances in these emerging glycan profiling technologies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chromatography, Affinity
  • Glycomics*
  • Lectins / chemistry
  • Lectins / metabolism*
  • Ligands
  • Molecular Probes
  • Polysaccharides / analysis*
  • Polysaccharides / chemistry
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism
  • Protein Array Analysis


  • Lectins
  • Ligands
  • Molecular Probes
  • Polysaccharides