C-Type Lectin Receptors


CLR typesC-type lectin receptors (CLRs) comprise a large family of receptors that bind to carbohydrates in a calcium-dependent manner.
The lectin activity of these receptors is mediated by conserved carbohydrate-recognition domains (CRDs).
On the basis of their molecular structure, two groups of membrane-bound CLRs can be distinguished and a group of soluble CLRs. 

DEC-205 and the macrophage mannose receptor (MMR), important in antigen uptake, are type I transmembrane proteins containing several CRDs or CRD-like domains.

Type II transmembrane CLRs typically carry a single CRD domain and include Dectin-1, Dectin-2, macrophage-inducible C-type lectin (Mincle), the dendritic cell-specific ICAM3-grabbing nonintegrin (DC-SIGN), and DC NK lectin group receptor-1 (DNGR-1).

These receptors are involved in fungal recognition and the modulation of the innate immune response

Soluble CLRs include MBL, an oligermeric protein that binds an array of carbohydrate patterns on pathogen surfaces.

CLRs are expressed by most cell types including macrophages and dendritic cells (DCs), which phagocytoze various glycoproteins and microbes for the purposes of clearance and antigen presentation to T lymphocytes.



C-type Lectin Receptors pathway



Dectin-1 plays an important role in antifungal innate immunity. Dectin-1 is a specific receptor for β-glucans [1].

β-glucans are glucose polymers found in the cell walls of fungi, including the yeasts Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Candida albicans. Dectin-1 has CRD connected by a stalk to the transmembrane region, followed by a cytoplasmic tail containing an ITAM-like motif.

Upon binding to its ligand, Dectin-1 triggers phagocytosis and activation of Src and Syk kinases, through its ITAM-like motif.
Syk, in turn, induces the CARD9-Bcl10-Malt1 complex leading to the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), activation of NF-κB and subsequent secretion of proinflammatory cytokines [2, 3]. 
ROS have a direct microbicidal role in the phagosome but also can affect IL-1β secretion by activating the NLRP3 inflammasome, which in turn activates caspase-1 and permits processing of pro-IL-1β [4].

Dectin-1 signaling has been shown to collaborate with TLR2 signaling to enhance the responses triggered by each receptor [3, 5]. Furthermore, Dectin-1 can modulate cytokine expression by inducing NFAT through the Ca2+-calcineurin-NFAT pathway [6].



Dectin-2 is also important in antifungal innate immunity.

Dectin-2 binds high mannose-type carbohydrates and was shown to be the functional receptor for α-mannans. Moreover, Dectin-2 has been implicated in anti-bacterial immunity and allergy [7].

Like Dectin-1, Dectin-2 belongs to the selective group of CLRs that link pathogen recognition to adaptive immunity. In fact, it has been demonstrated that Dectin-2 is the predominant receptor in response to fungal infection and the induction of Th17 immunity.

Similar to Dectin-1, activation of Dectin-2 triggers ROS and potassium efflux, leading to NLRP3 inflammasome activation and processing of pro-IL-1β [8].



Mincle is a member of the Dectin-2 family.

Mincle recognizes a variety of exogenous and endogenous stimuli, such as mycobacteria, certain fungi and necrotic cells [9, 10].
Exogenous ligands for Mincle include fungal α-mannose, and the mycobacterial glycolipid, trehalose-6’6’-dimycolate (TDM), also known as cord factor the immunostimulatory component of Mycobacterium tuberculosis [11].
Furthermore, Mincle senses damaged cells by recognizing the endogenous damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs). One such DAMP identified is the spliceosome-associated protein 130 (SAP130), a soluble factor released by necrotic cells [12].

Mincle interacts with the Fc receptor common γ-chain (FcRγ), which triggers intracellular signaling through Syk leading to CARD9-dependent NF-κB activation. Syk induces also the mobilization of intracellular calcium (Ca2+) and the activation of the calcineurin-NFAT pathway.



DC-SIGN is of interest due to its involvement in the recognition of several viruses (HIV-1, HCV, dengue virus, CMV, ebola virus) and other microbes of the Leishmania and Candida species.

This type II transmembrane protein has a single C-type lectin domain and is expressed on immature monocyte-derived DCs. DC-SIGN modulates TLR signaling at the level of the transcription factor NF-κB, however, prior TLR activation of NF-κB is required.

It has been demonstrated that pathogens trigger DC-SIGN on human DCs to activate the serine and threonine kinase Raf-1, which subsequently leads to acetylation of the NF-κB subunit p65.
Acetylation of p65 both prolonged and increased IL-10 transcription to enhance the anti-inflammatory cytokine response [13].

To date, it has been shown that M. tuberculosis, M. leprae, C. albicans, measles virus, and HIV-1 interact with DC-SIGN to activate the Raf-1-acetylation-dependent signaling pathway and modulate TLR signaling [14]. Thus, this pathway is involved in regulation of adaptive immunity by DCs to bacterial, fungal, and viral pathogens.



DNGR-1 (CLEC9A) is particularly interesting because of its restricted pattern of expression in DCs that may be exploited for cancer therapy.

It has recently been revealed that DNGR-1 binds damaged or dead cells via exposed actin filaments [15,16]. DNGR-1 is therefore considered to be DAMPs receptor since no microbial ligand has yet been identified.



MBL (Mannose-binding lectin) is a soluble C-type lectin.
MBL plays a crucial role in innate immunity against yeast by enhanced complement activation and enhanced uptake of polymorphonuclear cells [17].

MBL binds to repetitive mannose and/or N-acetylglucosamine residues on microorganisms, leading to opsonization and activation of the lectin complement pathway.

MBL also interacts with carbohydrates on the glycoprotein (gp)120 of HIV-1. MBL may inhibit DC-SIGN-mediated uptake and spread of HIV [18].


Much remains to be understood about CLRs in general, their ligands and and cooperation with other molecules.


1.Brown GD. et al. , 2003. Dectin-1 mediates the biological effects of beta glucans. J Exp Med. 197: 1119- 24.
2. Gross O. et al., 2006. Card9 controls a non-TLR signaling pathway for innate anti-fungal immunity. Nature. 442:651- 6.
3 Dennehy KM. & Brown GD., 2007. The role of the beta-glucan receptor Dectin-1 in control of fungal infection . J Leukoc Biol.;82(2):253-8.
4. Kankkunen P. et al., 2010. (1,3)-b-glucans activate both Dectin-1 and NLRP3 inflammasome in human macrophages. J Immunol. 184;6335-6342.
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6. Goodridge HS. et al., 2007. Dectin-1 stimulation by Candida albicans yeast or zymosan triggers NFAT activation in macrophages and dendritic cells. J Immunol. 178(5):3107-15.
7. Drummond R. et al., 2011. The role of Syk/CARD9 coupled C-type lectins in antifungal immunity. Eur J Immunol. 41:276-81.
8. Sancho D & Reis E Sousa C., 2012. Signaling by myeloid C-type lectin receptors in immunity and homeostasis.Annu Rev Immunol. 30:491-529.
9. Yamasaki S. et al., 2009. C-type lectin Mincle is an activating receptor for pathogenic fungus, Malassezia. PNAS 106(6): 1897–1902.
10. Brown GD. 2008. Sensing necrosis with Mincle. Nature Immunol. 9:1099-1100.
11. Ishikawa E. et al., 2009. Direct recognition of the mycobacterial glycolipid, trehalose dimycolate, by Ctype lectin Mincle. J Exp Med. 206(13):2879-88.
12. Yamasaki S. et al., 2008. Mincle is an ITAM-coupled activating receptor that senses damaged cells. Nat Immunol. 9(10):1179-88. 
13. Gringhuis S. et al., 2007. C-Type Lectin DC-SIGN Modulates Toll-like Receptor Signaling via Raf-1 Kinase-Dependent Acetylation of Transcription Factor NF-kB. Immunity 26(5), 605–616. 
14. den Dunnen J. et al., 2008. Innate signaling by C-type lectin DC-SIGN dictates immune responses. Cancer Immunol Immunother. 26:605-610.
15. Ahrens S et al., 2012. F-Actin Is an evolutionarily conserved damage-associated molecular pattern recognized by DNGR-1, a receptor for dead cells. Immunity. 36(4):635-45. 
16. Zhang JG. et al., 2012. The dendritic cell receptor Clec9A binds damaged cells via exposed actin filaments. Immunity. 36(4):646-57.
17. Van Asbeck et al., 2008. Mannose binding lectin plays a crucial role in innate immunity against yeast by enhanced complement activation and enhanced uptake of polymorphonuclear cells. BMC Microbiol. 8:229.
18. Ji X. et al., 2005. Mannose-binding lectin binds to Ebola and Marburg envelope glycoproteins, resulting in blocking of virus interaction with DC-SIGN and complement-mediated virus neutralization. J Gen Virol. 86; 2535-2542.


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