Potential of carbohydrate-binding agents as therapeutics against enveloped viruses

Med Res Rev. 2012 Mar;32(2):349-87. doi: 10.1002/med.20216. Epub 2010 Jun 23.


Twenty-seven years after the discovery of HIV as the cause of AIDS more than 25 drugs directed against four different viral targets (i.e. reverse transcriptase, protease, integrase, envelope gp41) and one cellular target (i.e. CCR5 co-receptor) are available for treatment. However, the search for an efficient vaccine is still ongoing. One of the main problems is the presence of a continuously evolving dense carbohydrate shield, consisting of N-linked glycans that surrounds the virion and protects it against efficient recognition and persistent neutralization by the immune system. However, several lectins from the innate immune system specifically bind to these glycans in an attempt to process the virus antigens to provoke an immune response. Across a wide variety of different species in nature lectins can be found that can interact with the glycosylated envelope of HIV-1 and can block the infection of susceptible cells by the virus. In this review, we will give an overview of the lectins from non-mammalian origin that are endowed with antiviral properties and discuss the complex interactions between lectins of the innate immune system and HIV-1. Also, attention will be given to different carbohydrate-related modalities that can be exploited for antiviral chemotherapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Bacterial Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Carrier Proteins / therapeutic use
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • HIV Infections / immunology
  • HIV-1 / immunology
  • HIV-1 / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Lectins / therapeutic use
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / therapeutic use
  • Viral Envelope Proteins / drug effects


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Lectins
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Viral Envelope Proteins
  • saccharide-binding proteins
  • cyanovirin N