Wheat germ agglutinin

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Agglutinin isolectin 1
OrganismTriticum aestivum
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Wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) is a lectin that protects wheat (Triticum) from insects, yeast and bacteria. An agglutinin protein, it binds to N-acetyl-D-glucosamine and Sialic acid.[1] Succinylated WGA is selective for β-N-acetylglucosamine (β-GlcNAc), making it a useful tool for detecting O-GlcNAc. N-acetyl-D-glucosamine in the natural environment of wheat is found in the chitin of insects, and the cell membrane of yeast & bacteria. WGA is found abundantly—but not exclusively—in the wheat kernel, where it got the 'germ' name from. In mammals the N-acetyl-D-glucosamine that WGA binds to is found in cartilage[2] and cornea[3] among other places. In those animals sialic acid is found in mucous membranes, e.g. the lining of the inner nose, and digestive tract.

In solution, WGA exists mostly as a heterodimer of 38,000 daltons. It is cationic at physiological pH. It contains a Carbohydrate-binding module called CBM18.

Use in molecular biology[edit]

WGA is also widely used in biological research. Since WGA binds to glycoconjugates, it can be used to label cell membranes,[4] fibrotic scar tissue[5] and arbuscular mycorrhizae[6] for imaging and analysis.

A fluorescent microscopy image of a fungal arbuscule stained with WGA and Alexa Fluor

See also[edit]

  • Proteopedia: 2uvo – High resolution crystal structure of Wheat Germ Agglutinin in complex with N-acetyl-D-glucosamine
  • Proteopedia: 2uwg – Crystal structure of Wheat Germ Agglutinin isolectin 1 in complex with glycosylurethan


  1. ^ Monsigny M, Roche AC, Sene C, Maget-Dana R, Delmotte F (February 1980). "Sugar-lectin interactions: how does wheat-germ agglutinin bind sialoglycoconjugates?". European Journal of Biochemistry. 104 (1): 147–53. doi:10.1111/j.1432-1033.1980.tb04410.x. PMID 6892800.
  2. ^ Ohno J, Tajima Y, Utsumi N (October 1986). "Binding of wheat germ agglutinin in the matrix of rat tracheal cartilage". The Histochemical Journal. 18 (10): 537–40. doi:10.1007/BF01675194. PMID 3804790. S2CID 25384990.
  3. ^ Marfurt CF (February 1988). "Sympathetic innervation of the rat cornea as demonstrated by the retrograde and anterograde transport of horseradish peroxidase-wheat germ agglutinin". The Journal of Comparative Neurology. 268 (2): 147–60. doi:10.1002/cne.902680202. PMID 3360982. S2CID 23955233.
  4. ^ "Plasma Membrane - US". www.thermofisher.com. Retrieved 2020-01-13.
  5. ^ Emde B, Heinen A, Gödecke A, Bottermann K (December 2014). "Wheat germ agglutinin staining as a suitable method for detection and quantification of fibrosis in cardiac tissue after myocardial infarction". European Journal of Histochemistry. 58 (4): 2448. doi:10.4081/ejh.2014.2448. PMC 4289847. PMID 25578975.
  6. ^ Carotenuto, Gennaro; Genre, Andrea (2020). "Fluorescent Staining of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Structures Using Wheat Germ Agglutinin (WGA) and Propidium Iodide". Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi. 2146: 53–59. doi:10.1007/978-1-0716-0603-2_5. hdl:2318/1740844.