Protein-carbohydrate interactions serve multiple functions in the immune system. Many animal lectins (sugar-binding proteins) mediate both pathogen recognition and cell-cell interactions using structurally related Ca(2+)-dependent carbohydrate-recognition domains (C-type CRDs). Pathogen recognition by soluble collections such as serum mannose-binding protein and pulmonary surfactant proteins, and also the macrophage cell-surface mannose receptor, is effected by binding of terminal monosaccharide residues characteristic of bacterial and fungal cell surfaces. The broad selectivity of the monosaccharide-binding site and the geometrical arrangement of multiple CRDs in the intact lectins explains the ability of the proteins to mediate discrimination between self and non-self. In contrast, the much narrower binding specificity of selectin cell adhesion molecules results from an extended binding site within a single CRD. Other proteins, particularly receptors on the surface of natural killer cells, contain C-type lectin-like domains (CTLDs) that are evolutionarily divergent from the C-type lectins and which would be predicted to function through different mechanisms.