Mannose-binding lectin and innate immunity

Immunol Rev. 2009 Jul;230(1):9-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-065X.2009.00789.x.


Innate immunity is the earliest response to invading microbes and acts to contain infection in the first minutes to hours of challenge. Unlike adaptive immunity that relies upon clonal expansion of cells that emerge days after antigenic challenge, the innate immune response is immediate. Soluble mediators, including complement components and the mannose binding lectin (MBL) make an important contribution to innate immune protection and work along with epithelial barriers, cellular defenses such as phagocytosis, and pattern-recognition receptors that trigger pro-inflammatory signaling cascades. These four aspects of the innate immune system act in concert to protect from pathogen invasion. Our work has focused on understanding the protection provided by this complex defense system and, as discussed in this review, the particular contribution of soluble mediators such as MBL and phagocytic cells. Over the past two decades both human epidemiological data and mouse models have indicated that MBL plays a critical role in innate immune protection against a number of pathogens. As demonstrated by our recent in vitro work, we show that MBL and the innate immune signaling triggered by the canonical pattern-recognition receptors (PRRs), the Toll-like receptors (TLRs), are linked by their spatial localization to the phagosome. These observations demonstrated a novel role for MBL as a TLR co-receptor and establishes a new paradigm for the role of opsonins, which we propose to function not only to increase microbial uptake but also to spatially coordinate, amplify, and synchronize innate immune defenses mechanism. In this review we discuss both the attributes of MBL that make it a unique soluble pattern recognition molecule and also highlight its broader role in coordinating innate immune activation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbohydrates / immunology
  • Complement Activation / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Mannose-Binding Lectin / genetics
  • Mannose-Binding Lectin / immunology
  • Mannose-Binding Lectin / metabolism*
  • Mannose-Binding Protein-Associated Serine Proteases / immunology
  • Mannose-Binding Protein-Associated Serine Proteases / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Nod Signaling Adaptor Proteins / immunology*
  • Nod Signaling Adaptor Proteins / metabolism
  • Phagocytosis / immunology
  • Signal Transduction / immunology
  • Toll-Like Receptors / immunology*
  • Toll-Like Receptors / metabolism


  • Carbohydrates
  • Mannose-Binding Lectin
  • Nod Signaling Adaptor Proteins
  • Toll-Like Receptors
  • Mannose-Binding Protein-Associated Serine Proteases