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Open Access Short Report

A biologically active peptide mimetic of N-acetylgalactosamine/galactose

Laura L Eggink* and J Kenneth Hoober

Author Affiliations

Faculty of Biomedicine and Biotechnology, School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-4501, USA

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BMC Research Notes 2009, 2:23  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-2-23

Published: 11 February 2009



Glycosylated proteins and lipids are important regulatory factors whose functions can be altered by addition or removal of sugars to the glycan structure. The glycans are recognized by sugar-binding lectins that serve as receptors on the surface of many cells and facilitate initiation of an intracellular signal that changes the properties of the cells. We identified a peptide that mimics the ligand of an N-acetylgalactosamine (GalNAc)-specific lectin and asked whether the peptide would express specific biological activity.


A 12-mer phage display library was screened with a GalNAc-specific lectin to identify an amino acid sequence that binds to the lectin. Phage particles that were eluted from the lectin with free GalNAc were considered to have been bound to a GalNAc-binding site. Peptides were synthesized with the selected sequence as a quadravalent structure to facilitate receptor crosslinking. Treatment of human peripheral blood mononuclear cells for 24 h with the peptide stimulated secretion of interleukin-8 (IL-8) but not of IL-1β, IL-6, IL-10, or tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α). The secretion of IL-21 was stimulated as strongly with the peptide as with interferon-γ.


The data indicate that the quadravalent peptide has biological activity with a degree of specificity. These effects occurred at concentrations in the nanomolar range, in contrast to free sugars that generally bind to proteins in the micro- to millimolar range.