Plant lectins as defense proteins against phytophagous insects

Phytochemistry. 2011 Sep;72(13):1538-50. doi: 10.1016/j.phytochem.2011.02.024. Epub 2011 Mar 21.


One of the most important direct defense responses in plants against the attack by phytophagous insects is the production of insecticidal peptides or proteins. One particular class of entomotoxic proteins present in many plant species is the group of carbohydrate-binding proteins or lectins. During the last decade a lot of progress was made in the study of a few lectins that are expressed in response to herbivory by phytophagous insects and the insecticidal properties of plant lectins in general. This review gives an overview of lectins with high potential for the use in pest control strategies based on their activity towards pest insects. In addition, potential target sites for lectins inside the insect and the mode of action are discussed. In addition, the effect of plant lectins on non-target organisms such as beneficial insects as well as on human/animal consumers is discussed. It can be concluded that some insecticidal lectins are useful tools that can contribute to the development of integrated pest management strategies with minimal effect(s) on non-target organisms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Animals
  • Disease Resistance
  • Humans
  • Insecta / physiology*
  • Insecticides*
  • Pest Control*
  • Plant Diseases*
  • Plant Lectins / toxicity*
  • Plants / chemistry*


  • Insecticides
  • Plant Lectins