Rational-Differential Design of Highly Specific Glycomimetic Ligands: Targeting DC-SIGN and Excluding Langerin Recognition

ACS Chem Biol. 2018 Mar 16;13(3):600-608. doi: 10.1021/acschembio.7b00958. Epub 2018 Jan 8.


At the surface of dendritic cells, C-type lectin receptors (CLRs) allow the recognition of carbohydrate-based PAMPS or DAMPS (pathogen- or danger-associated molecular patterns, respectively) and promote immune response regulation. However, some CLRs are hijacked by viral and bacterial pathogens. Thus, the design of ligands able to target specifically one CLR, to either modulate an immune response or to inhibit a given infection mechanism, has great potential value in therapeutic design. A case study is the selective blocking of DC-SIGN, involved notably in HIV trans-infection of T lymphocytes, without interfering with langerin-mediated HIV clearance. This is a challenging task due to their overlapping carbohydrate specificity. Toward the rational design of DC-SIGN selective ligands, we performed a comparative affinity study between DC-SIGN and langerin with natural ligands. We found that GlcNAc is recognized by both CLRs; however, selective sulfation are shown to increase the selectivity in favor of langerin. With the combination of site-directed mutagenesis and X-ray structural analysis of the langerin/GlcNS6S complex, we highlighted that 6-sulfation of the carbohydrate ligand induced langerin specificity. Additionally, the K313 residue from langerin was identified as a critical feature of its binding site. Using a rational and a differential approach in the study of CLR binding sites, we designed, synthesized, and characterized a new glycomimetic, which is highly specific for DC-SIGN vs langerin. STD NMR, SPR, and ITC characterizations show that compound 7 conserved the overall binding mode of the natural disaccharide while possessing an improved affinity and a strict specificity for DC-SIGN.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD / metabolism
  • Binding Sites
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Dendritic Cells / chemistry
  • Drug Design*
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Lectins, C-Type / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Lectins, C-Type / metabolism*
  • Ligands
  • Mannose-Binding Lectins / metabolism
  • Molecular Mimicry
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / antagonists & inhibitors*


  • Antigens, CD
  • CD207 protein, human
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • DC-specific ICAM-3 grabbing nonintegrin
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • Ligands
  • Mannose-Binding Lectins
  • Receptors, Cell Surface