Bacterial surfaces are rich in glycoconjugates that are mainly present in their outer layers and are of great importance for their interaction with the host innate immune system. The innate immune system is the first barrier against infection and recognizes pathogens via conserved pattern recognition receptors (PRRs). Lectins expressed by innate immune cells represent an important class of PRRs characterized by their ability to recognize carbohydrates. Among lectins in innate immunity, there are three major classes including the galectins, siglecs, and C-type lectin receptors. These lectins may contribute to initial recognition of bacterial glycans, thus providing an early defence mechanism against bacterial infections, but they may also be exploited by bacteria to escape immune responses. In this review, we will first exemplify bacterial glycosylation systems; we will then describe modes of recognition of bacterial glycans by lectins in innate immunity and, finally, we will briefly highlight how bacteria have found ways to exploit these interactions to evade immune recognition.

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