Reaction of Lectin-Specific Antibody with Human Tissue: Possible Contributions to Autoimmunity

J Immunol Res. 2020 Feb 11:2020:1438957. doi: 10.1155/2020/1438957. eCollection 2020.


The aim of this study was to examine the direct reaction of specific lectin/agglutinin antibodies to different tissue antigens to confirm the theory that reactivity between them may contribute to autoimmunities. Lectins are carbohydrate-binding proteins found in nearly all fruits and vegetables. Undigested lectins can penetrate the gut barriers, provoking an immune response that results in the production of antibodies against them. Using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, we reacted lectin-specific antibodies with 62 different tissue antigens. Wheat germ agglutinin-specific antibody was the most reactive with the tissue antigens (37 tissues out of 62), followed by red kidney bean phytohemagglutinin-specific antibody (20), soybean agglutinin-specific antibody (20), and peanut agglutinin-specific antibody (15). This reaction between anti-lectin antibodies and many human tissue antigens may be due to possible molecular mimicry and cross-reactivity. After our results confirmed that anti-lectin antibodies bind with human tissues, we wanted to determine the prevalence of these antibodies in the blood of 500 nominally healthy donors. The percentage elevation of antibodies against different lectins ranged from 12 to 16% (Immunoglobulin G), 9.7-14.7% (Immunoglobulin A), 12-18% (Immunoglobulin M), and 7.8-14.6% (Immunoglobulin E). Serial dilutions and inhibition study confirmed that these reactions were specific. Finally, we tested the lectin-specific antibody level in sera both negative and positive for RF and ANA and found that IgM anti-lectin antibody levels were highly correlated with RF but not with ANA level. The reaction of anti-lectin antibodies with human tissue components and their detection in RF-positive samples may describe mechanisms by which the production of antibodies against undigested lectins may contribute to the pathogenesis of some autoimmune diseases.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Agglutinins / immunology
  • Antibody Specificity / immunology
  • Autoantibodies / immunology*
  • Autoantigens / immunology*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / etiology
  • Autoimmunity*
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology
  • Immunoglobulin M / immunology
  • Lectins / immunology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Protein Binding
  • Young Adult


  • Agglutinins
  • Autoantibodies
  • Autoantigens
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunoglobulin M
  • Lectins