Novel approaches to glycomimetic design: development of small molecular weight lectin antagonists

Expert Opin Drug Discov. 2021 May;16(5):513-536. doi: 10.1080/17460441.2021.1857721. Epub 2021 Feb 5.


Introduction: The direct binding of carbohydrates or those presented on glycoproteins or glycolipids to proteins is the primary effector of many biological responses. One class of carbohydrate-binding proteins, lectins are important in all forms of life. Their functions in animals include regulating cell adhesion, glycoprotein synthesis, metabolism, and mediating immune system response while in bacteria and viruses a lectin-mediated carbohydrate-protein interaction between host cells and the pathogen initiates pathogenesis of the infection.Areas covered: In this review, the authors outline the structural and functional pathogenesis of lectins from bacteria, amoeba, and humans. Mimics of a carbohydrate are referred to as glycomimetics, which are much smaller in molecular weight and are devised to mimic the key binding interactions of the carbohydrate while also allowing additional contacts with the lectin. This article emphasizes the various approaches used over the past 10-15 years in the rational design of glycomimetic ligands.Expert opinion: Medicinal chemistry efforts enabled by X-ray structural biology have identified small-molecule glycomimetic lectin antagonists that have entered or are nearing clinical trials. A common theme in these strategies is the use of biaryl ring systems to emulate the carbohydrate interactions with the lectin.

Keywords: antibacterial; antibiotic resistance; bacterial adhesin; carbohydrate; glycomimetic; glycoside; infectious disease; lectin; structure-based drug design (SBDD); virulence factor.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism
  • Chemistry, Pharmaceutical / methods
  • Drug Design*
  • Drug Development
  • Humans
  • Lectins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Lectins / metabolism*
  • Ligands
  • Molecular Weight


  • Lectins
  • Ligands