Galectins are a family of β-galactoside-binding proteins that are widely found among animal species and that regulate diverse biological phenomena. To study the biological function of glycolipid-binding galectins, we purified recombinant Caenorhabditis elegans galectins (LEC-1-11) and studied their binding to C. elegans glycolipids.Wefound that LEC-8 binds to glycolipids in C. elegans through carbohydrate recognition. It has been reported that Cry5B-producing Bacillus thuringiensis strains can infect C. elegans and that the C. elegans Cry5B receptor molecules are glycolipids. We found that Cry5B and LEC-8 bound to C. elegans glycolipid-coated plates in a dose-dependent manner and that Cry5B binding to glycolipids was inhibited by the addition of LEC-8. LEC-8 is usually expressed strongly in the pharyngeal-intestinal valve and intestinal-rectal valve and is expressed weakly in intestine. However, when C. elegans were fed Escherichia coli expressing Cry5B, intestinal LEC-8::EGFP protein levels increased markedly. In contrast, LEC-8::EGFP expression triggered by Cry5B was reduced in toxin-resistant C. elegans mutants, which had mutations in genes involved in biosynthesis of glycolipids. Moreover, the LEC-8-deficient mutant was more susceptible to Cry5B than wild-type worms. These results suggest that the glycolipid-binding lectin LEC-8 contributes to host defense against bacterial infection by competitive binding to target glycolipid molecules.
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