Insulin-like activity of concanavalin A and wheat germ agglutinin--direct interactions with insulin receptors

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1973 Feb;70(2):485-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.70.2.485.


Concanavalin A and wheat germ agglutinin are as effective as insulin in enhancing the rate of glucose transport and in inhibiting epinephrine-stimulated lipolysis in isolated adipocytes. These lectins, also like insulin, inhibit basal as well as epinephrine-stimulated adenylate cyclase activity of membranes obtained from homogenates of fat cells. Low concentrations of wheat germ agglutinin enhance the specific binding of insulin to receptors of fat cells and liver membranes. Higher concentrations of this plant lectin, as well as of concanavalin A, competitively displace the binding of insulin to receptors in these tissues. These effects are equally apparent in insulin-binding proteins solubilized from membranes, indicating that the plant lectins interact directly with insulin receptors. All of the effects observed with the plant lectins are reversed by simple sugars that bind specifically to these plant proteins. Agarose derivatives of the plant lectins effectively adsorb solubilized insulin-binding proteins, and these can be eluted with buffers containing specific simple sugars. The possible implications of these findings to certain biological properties (mitogenicity) of these lectins and to the mechanism of action of other growth-promoting substances are considered.

MeSH terms

  • Adenylyl Cyclases / metabolism
  • Adipose Tissue / drug effects
  • Adipose Tissue / enzymology
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Binding, Competitive
  • Carbon Dioxide / biosynthesis
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Cell Membrane / enzymology
  • Chromatography, Affinity
  • Concanavalin A / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Concanavalin A / pharmacology
  • Epinephrine / pharmacology
  • Glucosamine / pharmacology
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Glycosides / pharmacology
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin / pharmacology*
  • Iodine Isotopes
  • Lectins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Lectins / metabolism
  • Lectins / pharmacology*
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Drug*


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Glycosides
  • Insulin
  • Iodine Isotopes
  • Lectins
  • Receptors, Drug
  • Concanavalin A
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Adenylyl Cyclases
  • Glucose
  • Glucosamine
  • Epinephrine