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Dr. Chern, Yijuang

Distinguished Research Fellow
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  • Signal Transduction
  • Gene Regulation
  • Neurodegeneration Disease

Education and Positions:
  • Ph.D. Univ. of Massachusetts

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Microglial Lectins in Health and Neurological Diseases

Dr. Chern, Yijuang
Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, May 14, 2018

Microglia are the innate sentinels of the central nervous system (CNS) and are responsible for the homeostasis and immune defense of the CNS. Under the influence of the local environment and cell-cell interaction, microglia exhibit a multidimensional and context-dependent phenotypes that can be cytotoxic and neuroprotective. Recent studies suggest that microglia express multitudinous types of lectins, including galectins, Siglecs, mannose-binding lectins (MBLs) and other glycan binding proteins. Because most studies that examine lectins focus on the peripheral system, the functions of lectins have not been critically investigated in the CNS. In addition, the types of brain cells that contribute to the altered levels of lectins present in diseases are often unclear. In this review, we will discuss how galectins, Siglecs, selectins and MBLs contribute to the dynamic functions of microglia. The interacting ligands of these lectins are complex glycoconjugates, which consist of glycoproteins and glycolipids that are expressed on microglia or surrounding cells. The current understanding of the heterogeneity and functions of glycans in the brain is limited. Galectins are a group of pleotropic proteins that recognize both β-galactoside-containing glycans and non- β-galactoside-containing proteins. The function and regulation of galectins have been implicated in immunomodulation, neuroinflammation, apoptosis, phagocytosis and oxidative bursts. Most Siglecs are expressed at a low level on the plasma membrane and bind to sialic acid residues for immunosurveillance and cell-cell communication. Siglecs are classified based on their inhibitory and activatory downstream signaling properties. Inhibitory Siglecs negatively regulate microglia activation upon recognizing the intact sialic acid patterns and vice versa. MBLs are expressed upon infection in cytoplasm and can be secreted in order to recognize molecules containing terminal mannose as an innate immune defense machinery. Most importantly, multiple studies have reported dysregulation of lectins in neurological disorders. Here, we reviewed recent studies on microglial lectins and their functions in CNS health and disease, and suggest that these lectin families are novel, potent therapeutic targets for neurological diseases.