Selective modulation of phosphatidylserine exposure on subpopulations of human peripheral blood lymphocytes by a plant lectin, Viscum album agglutinin (VAA)-I and its recombinant form (rVAA) in vitro

K. Hostanska, T. Hajto, J. Fischer, U. Mengs, K. Weber, H. Lentzen, R. Saller

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16 Citations (Scopus)


Growing evidence suggests that lectin-carbohydrate interactions are involved in the regulation of the balance between cell growth and programmed cell death. Viscum album agglutinin (VAA)-I is a galactoside-specific, type II ribosome-inactivating plant lectin. At concentrations less than 10 ng/ml, VAA-I has been shown to induce gene expression and secretion of proinflammatory cytokines as well as apoptosis in cultures of human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). This study analyzes the effects of VAA-I and its recombinant nonglycosylated form (rVAA) on alterations of cell membrane permeability of cultured human peripheral lymphocytes (PBL) and on membrane exposure of phosphatidylserine characteristic of apoptosis. Analyses were performed by flow cytometry after staining with propidium iodide (PI) and/or with FITC-Annexin V/PI. After 24 h incubation of PBMC with 100 ng/ml VAA-I and rVAA, staining with supravital concentration of PI (20 μg/ml) for 1 h revealed no differences in percentages of PI-positive cells induced by the two forms of lectin (32.3% and 29.4%), but the exposure to 5 μg/ml PI for 15 min resulted in a significant difference: 35.1% and 8.0% after VAA-I and rVAA treatment, respectively. Kinetic analysis of membrane alterations showed mainly Annexin V positivity after 24 h, whereas after 48 h and 72 h incubation with 100 ng/ml VAA-I or rVAA loss of membrane integrity occurred, as demonstrated by PI staining. Similar to VAA-I, rVAA showed a higher binding affinity for monocytes and granulocytes than for lymphocytes. In cultures of PBL, the binding rank order of both lectins to lymphocyte subsets was NK, CD19+ > CD8+ > CD4+. The amount of Annexin/PI staining of PBL subsets corresponds to the degree of their binding capacity. In conclusion, present results demonstrate that VAA-I and its nonglycosylated recombinant form rVAA exhibit comparable effects on cell membrane alterations in the subsets of human PBLs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)511-523
Number of pages13
JournalCancer Detection and Prevention
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 26 1999



  • Apoptosis
  • Fas
  • Lymphocytes
  • Mistletoe lectin
  • Phosphatidylserine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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