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Front. Plant Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fpls.2019.00036

Messages From the Past: New Insights in Plant Lectin Evolution

  • 1Department of Biotechnology, Ghent University, Belgium

Lectins are a large and diverse class of proteins, found in all kingdoms of life. Plants are known to express different types of carbohydrate-binding proteins, each containing at least one particular lectin domain which enables them to specifically recognize and bind carbohydrate structures. The group of plant lectins is heterogeneous in terms of structure, biological activity and function. Lectins control various aspects of plant development and defense. Some lectins facilitate recognition of exogenous danger signals or play a role in endogenous signaling pathways, while others are considered as storage proteins or involved in symbiotic relationships. In this study, we revisit the origin of the different plant lectin families in view of the recently reshaped tree of life. Due to new genomic sampling of previously unknown microbial lineages, the tree of life has expanded and was reshaped multiple times. In addition, more plant genomes especially from basal Phragmoplastophyta, bryophytes and Salviniales (e.g. Chara braunii, Marchantia polymorpha, Physcomitrella patens, Azolla filiculoides and Salvinia cucullata) have been analyzed, and annotated genome sequences have become accessible. We searched 38 plant genome sequences including core eudicots, monocots, gymnosperms, fern, lycophytes, bryophytes, charophytes, chlorophytes, glaucophytes and rhodophytes for lectin motifs, performed an extensive comparative analysis of lectin domain architectures, and determined the phylogenetic and evolutionary history of lectins in the plant lineage. In conclusion, we describe the conservation of particular domains in plant lectin sequences obtained from algae to higher plants. The strong conservation of several lectin motifs highlights their significance for plants.

Keywords: Lectin, gene family evolution, lower plants, protein domain, Evolutionary diversity

Received: 14 Jul 2018; Accepted: 10 Jan 2019.

Edited by:

Stefan A. Rensing, University of Marburg, Germany

Reviewed by:

Andrew C. Cuming, University of Leeds, United Kingdom
Hervé CANUT, UMR5546 Laboratoire de Recherche en Sciences Vegetales (LRSV), France  

Copyright: © 2019 Van Holle and VAN DAMME. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Els J. VAN DAMME, Ghent University, Department of Biotechnology, Ghent, 9000, East Flanders, Belgium,