Recent progress in the search for the physiological role of plant lectins supports the idea that some of these proteins are involved in the defence mechanisms of the plant. To place the evidence in favour of such a defensive role in a broad perspective, a short overview is given of the most important plant pathogens and predators. In addition, the solutions that plants have developed to resist the continuous threat of a hostile environment are briefly discussed in relation to the protective role of proteins in general. The presumed involvement of plant lectins in defence mechanisms is first inferred from an analysis of the biochemical, physiological, cellular biological and molecular biological properties of plant lectins. Subsequently, the available experimental evidence for the involvement of lectins in the plant's defence against viruses, bacteria, fungi and herbivorous invertebrates and vertebrates is discussed in some detail. Since the defensive role of plant lectins is determined largely by their ability to recognize and bind foreign glycans, a brief discussion is given of how the basically protective properties of these proteins can be exploited for histochemical applications in biological and biomedical research.
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Peumans, W.J., Van Damme, E.J.M. The role of lectins in plant defence. Histochem J 27, 253–271 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00398968