Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 89, Issue 1, pp 45-55

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Lectins: production and practical applications

  • Sze Kwan LamAffiliated withDivision of Respiratory Medicine, Department of Medicine, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong Email author 
  • , Tzi Bun NgAffiliated withSchool of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, New Territories Email author 


Lectins are proteins found in a diversity of organisms. They possess the ability to agglutinate erythrocytes with known carbohydrate specificity since they have at least one non-catalytic domain that binds reversibly to specific monosaccharides or oligosaccharides. This articles aims to review the production and practical applications of lectins. Lectins are isolated from their natural sources by chromatographic procedures or produced by recombinant DNA technology. The yields of animal lectins are usually low compared with the yields of plant lectins such as legume lectins. Lectins manifest a diversity of activities including antitumor, immunomodulatory, antifungal, HIV-1 reverse transcriptase inhibitory, and anti-insect activities, which may find practical applications. A small number of lectins demonstrate antibacterial and anti-nematode activities.


Lectins Hemagglutinins Production Practical applications