Lectin Histochemistry: Historical Perspectives, State of the Art, and the Future

  • Susan A. BrooksEmail author
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 1560)


Lectins, discovered more than 100 years ago and defined by their ability to selectively recognize specific carbohydrate structures, are ubiquitous in living organisms. Their precise functions are as yet under-explored and incompletely understood but they are clearly involved, through recognition of their binding partners, in a myriad of biological mechanisms involved in cell identity, adhesion, signaling, growth regulation, in health and disease. Understanding the complex “sugar code” represented by the glycome is a major challenge and at the forefront of current biological research. Lectins have been widely employed in histochemical studies to map glycosylation in cells and tissues. Here, a brief history of the discovery of lectins and early developments in their use is presented along with a selection of some of the most interesting and significant discoveries to emerge from use of lectin histochemistry. Further, an evaluation of the next generation of lectin-based technologies is presented, including the potential for designing recombinant lectins with more precisely defined binding characteristics, linking lectin-based studies with other technologies to answer fundamental questions in glycobiology, and approaches to exploring the interactions of lectins with their binding partners in more detail.

Key words

Lectin histochemistry History Carbohydrates Glycosylation Review Methodology Glycomics 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological & Medical SciencesOxford Brookes UniversityHeadington, OxfordUK

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