The self/non-self discrimination by innate immunity through simple ligands universally expressed both on pathogens and hosts, such as monosaccharides and acetyl group, depends on the density or clustering patterns of the ligands. The specific recognition by the horseshoe crab tachylectins with a propeller-like fold or a propeller-like oligomeric arrangement is reinforced by the short distance between the individual binding sites that interact with pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs). There is virtually no conformational change in the main or side chains of tachylectins upon binding with the ligands. This low structural flexibility of the propeller structures must be very important for specific interaction with PAMPs. Mammalian lectins, such as mannose-binding lectin and ficolins, trigger complement activation through the lectin pathway in the form of opsonins. However, tachylectins have no effector collagenous domains and no lectin-associated serine proteases found in the mammalian lectins. Furthermore, no complement-like proteins have been found in horseshoe crabs, except for α2-macroglobulin. The mystery of the molecular mechanism of the scavenging pathway of pathogens in horseshoe crabs remains to be solved.
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