A motif-based analysis of glycan array data to determine the specificities of glycan-binding proteins

Glycobiology. 2010 Mar;20(3):369-80. doi: 10.1093/glycob/cwp187. Epub 2009 Nov 29.


Glycan arrays have enabled detailed studies of the specificities of glycan-binding proteins. A challenge in the interpretation of glycan array data is to determine the specific features of glycan structures that are critical for binding. To address this challenge, we have developed a systematic method to interpret glycan array data using a motif-based analysis. Each glycan on a glycan array is classified according to its component sub-structures, or motifs. We analyze the binding of a given lectin to each glycan in terms of the motifs in order to identify the motifs that are selectively present in the glycans that are bound by the lectin. We compared two different methods to calculate the identification, termed intensity segregation and motif segregation, for the analysis of three well-characterized lectins with highly divergent behaviors. Both methods accurately identified the primary specificities as well as the weaker, secondary specificities of all three lectins. The complex binding behavior of wheat germ agglutinin was reduced to its simplified, independent specificities. We compiled the motif specificities of a wide variety of plant lectins, human lectins, and glycan-binding antibodies to uncover the relationships among the glycan-binding proteins and to provide a means to search for lectins with particular binding specificities. This approach should be valuable for rapidly analyzing and using glycan array data, for better describing and understanding glycan-binding specificities, and as a means to systematize and compare data from glycan arrays.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • Carbohydrate Sequence
  • Lectins / metabolism*
  • Polysaccharides / chemistry*
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism
  • Protein Array Analysis / methods*
  • Sequence Analysis


  • Lectins
  • Polysaccharides