The expression of ABO(H) blood group antigens causes deletion of cells that generate self anti-blood group antibodies, but this deletion limits adaptive immunity toward pathogens bearing cognate blood group antigens. To explore potential defense mechanisms against these pathogens, given such limitations in adaptive immunity, we screened for innate proteins that could recognize human blood group antigens. Here we report that two innate immune lectins, galectins-4 and -8, which are expressed in the intestinal tract, recognize and kill human blood group antigen-expressing E. coli, while failing to alter viability of other E. coli strains or other gram-negative or gram-positive organisms both in vitro and in vivo. Killing by both galectins-4 and -8 resides within their C-terminal domains, occurs rapidly and independently of complement, and is accompanied by disruption of membrane integrity. These results demonstrate that innate defense lectins can provide immunity against pathogens that display blood group self-antigens on their surface.
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