Mammalian annexins are implicated in several physiological mechanisms based on their calcium-dependent phospholipid/membrane binding and carbohydrate-binding activities. In this study, we investigated gene expression profiles of all four Caenorhabditis elegans annexins, nex-1 , - 2 , - 3 and - 4 , throughout the development, and compared phospholipid- and carbohydrate-binding properties of their protein products, NEX-1, -2, -3 and -4. We found that nex-1 and - 3 are transcribed continuously during the developmental stages, while expression of nex-2 and - 4 appeared to be temporal, peaking at the L1 stage followed by a gradual decrease toward the adult stage. NEX-1 and -3 were detected as single protein band in total worm extracts by immunoblotting, but NEX-2 was heterogenic in size. NEX-1, -2, and -3 showed the binding activities to phosphatidylserine, phosphatidylinositol and phosphatidylethanolamine, but not to phosphatidylcholine. In contrast to their uniform phospholipids-binding properties, their glycosaminoglycan-binding activities were distinctive. NEX-2 bound to heparan sulfate and chondroitin, NEX-3 bound only to heparan sulfate, and NEX-1 showed no lectin activities under tested conditions. NEX-4 had neither phospholipids- nor carbohydrate-binding properties. Differentiated expression profiles and ligand-binding properties of NEX-1, -2, -3 and -4, shown in our study, may represent distinctive roles for each C. elegans annexins.

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