Lectins

Year Published: 2020

Journal

Int J Biol Macromol

Authors

Nascimento KS, Silva MTL, Oliveira MV, Lossio CF, Pinto-Junior VR, Osterne VJS, Cavada BS

Methods

This paper was written as a review of the structure and function of lectins in legumes, including peanuts. Lectins are proteins that recognize and bind to carbohydrates in the body. There has been recent interest in the role that they may play in human health. The main lectin in peanuts in peanut agglutinin (PNA).

Key Findings

Authors found that there are a large number of lectins in legumes. They all have the unique ability to bind to specific carbohydrates, which allows them to have various applications in biological processes like infections (viral, bacterial, etc.), inflammation, and cancer. Some lectins have been shown to induce inflammation (PELa), while others are anti-inflammatory (LAL). Some lectins can activate pain (PELa), while others seem to reduce pain (LCaL). PNA, the main lectin in peanuts, seems to be highly reactive to tumor cells. It has been associated with suppression of tumor development in mice. When used in medical applications, it also helps drugs to be more effective because they can recognize the tumor cells better with PNA than without it. PNA may also be effective at suppressing Herpes simplex virus, while Machaerium lectins (in the sunflower plant) have been shown to effectively inhibit HIV. PNA exhibits insecticidal effects, increasing the mortality of exposed larvae. The research surrounding the structure and biological functions of lectins is still ongoing, and more needs to be done to understand the unique characteristics of various plant lectins and their application in humans. However, the current research shows that peanut lectins (PNA) may be protective for cancer, some viruses, and infections.