Historical and contemporary hypotheses on the development of oral diseases: are we there yet?
Mannan-binding lectin (MBL) is a collectin (protein with both collagen-like and C-type lectin domains) synthesised in the liver and secreted into the bloodstream. Its plasma concentration is for the most part genetically determined by a series of allelic dimorphisms located both in the structural gene and in the promoter region. Genotypes made up of combinations of seven haplotypes are mainly responsible for a 1000-fold concentration variation found in human beings. MBL is a pattern recognition molecule able to bind repeating sugar arrays on many microbial surfaces, and can activate complement via associated serine proteases. A poorly defined proportion (roughly 10%) of the population with the lowest MBL concentrations is thought to be MBL insufficient and more vulnerable to a variety of infectious and noninfectious disorders. The evidence that MBL makes an important contribution to innate immunity, by increasing susceptibility to disease and/or affecting the course of disease, is discussed in detail. Preliminary results from MBL replacement therapy are encouraging, and extension of this approach to large-scale randomised clinical trials would provide solid evidence concerning the physiological significance of this protein.