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In this study we use carbohydrate probes to search for novel cell surface lectins in the immune system. Many carbohydrate binding proteins are members of the C-type lectin superfamily, whose ligand binding is dependent on calcium. To identify potential new members of this superfamily, fluorescein-conjugated carbohydrate polymers were used to probe for calcium-dependent cell surface binding. This approach offers advantages over the use of monoclonal antibody probes since only carbohydrate binding proteins would be identified. We have identified a cell surface lectin, referred to as thy-lec, detected by the probe fucoidan-fuorescein isothiocyanate. This calcium-dependent lectin has a novel distribution on thymocyte subsets. It is present on the surface of immature CD4+8+ and on large, cycling CD4-8- cells and CD8+4- cells, but not on small, mature phenotype CD8+4- or CD4+8- thymocytes. This lectin is not found on mature T cells or other leukocytes in lymph nodes, spleen or bone marrow. It is proposed that this novel cell surface has a function in the maturation of T cells in the thymus.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur J Immunol

Publication Date





77 - 83


Animals, Calcium, Carbohydrates, Cell Differentiation, Cell Division, Epitopes, L-Selectin, Lectins, Ligands, Membrane Proteins, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, T-Lymphocyte Subsets, Thymus Gland