Lectins are proteins that agglutinate cells and exhibit an antibody like, sugar-binding specificity. Professor Toshiaki Osawa has discovered, purified and characterized many plant lectins that display diverse biological activities. Using lectins as biochemical tools, he developed methods to determine the biochemical structures of glycoprotein glycans that react with lectins; separated and characterized glycoproteins and cell populations; analysed the mechanisms by which lectins activate cells; and characterized several cytokines produced by immune cells stimulated by lectins. The studies on lectins, the field he took strong leadership, developed into an essential hub of the biology of multicellular organisms.
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