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André, Sabine; Kaltner, Herbert; Kayser, Klaus; Murphy, Paul V. and Gabius, Hans-Joachim (2016): Merging carbohydrate chemistry with lectin histochemistry to study inhibition of lectin binding by glycoclusters in the natural tissue context. In: Histochemistry and Cell Biology, Vol. 145, No. 2: pp. 185-199

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Recognition of glycans by lectins leads to cell adhesion and growth regulation. The specificity and selectivity of this process are determined by carbohydrate structure (sequence and shape) and topology of its presentation. The synthesis of (neo)glycoconjugates with bi- to oligo-valency (glycoclusters) affords tools to delineate structure-activity relationships by blocking lectin binding to an artificial matrix, often a glycoprotein, or cultured cell lines. The drawback of these assays is that glycan presentation is different from that in tissues. In order to approach the natural context, we here introduce lectin histochemistry on fixed tissue sections to determine the susceptibility of binding of two plant lectins, i.e., GSA-II and WGA, to a series of 10 glycoclusters. Besides valency, this panel covers changes in the anomeric position (alpha/beta) and the atom at the glycosidic linkage (O/S). Flanked by cell and solid-phase assays with human tumor lines and two mucins, respectively, staining (intensity and profile) was analyzed in sections of murine jejunum, stomach and epididymis as a function of glycocluster presence. The marked and differential sensitivity of signal generation to structural aspects of the glycoclusters proves the applicability of this method. This enables comparisons between data sets obtained by using (neo)glycoconjugates, cells and the tissue context as platforms. The special advantage of processing tissue sections is the monitoring of interference with lectin association at sites that are relevant for functionality. Testing glycoclusters in lectin histochemistry will especially be attractive in cases of multi-target recognition (glycans, proteins and lipids) by a tissue lectin.

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