Affinity purified Phaseolus vulgaris lectin (PHA-E) is tetrameric glycoprotein and responsible for the erythroagglutinating properties of the PHA fraction. It has a carbohydrate specificity towards oligosaccharides and elutes with bovine thyroglobulin or acetic acid. PHA-E will bind to both human erythrocytes and lymphocytes, with a specificity towards blood group A (-SA). There are five times more PHA-E receptors on normal human lymphocytes than there are on erythrocytes. The crystal structure of a ligand-free PHA-E has a typical legume lectin fold characterized by two anti-parallel β-sheets and two short α-helices, and contains one GlcNAc residue of the N-linked glycan. Asparagine linked erythrocytes glycopeptide is an inhibitor of PHA-E induced agglutination and mitogenicity, and becomes inactive if treated with β-galactosidase. PHA-E binds di-galactosylated and bisected N-glycan. This lectin is widely used as a biochemical tool for detecting bisecting GlcNAc- and Gal-bearing glycoproteins.
Colloidal gold can be used to visualize localization of specific saccharide moieties and examine the distribution of plasma membrane glycoproteins based on the binding pattern of Phaseolus vulgaris Lectin (PHA-E). Colloidal gold labeled lectins can be viewed via electron microscopy.