• axonal regeneration;
  • dorsal root ganglion;
  • lectin;
  • oxidized galectin-1;
  • structure/activity relationship.

Galectin-1 has recently been identified as a factor that regulates initial axonal growth in peripheral nerves after axotomy. Although galectin-1 is a well-known β-galactoside-binding lectin, its potential to promote axonal regeneration as a lectin has not been reported. It is essential that the process of initial repair in peripheral nerves after axotomy is well clarified. We therefore undertook to investigate the relation between the structure and axonal regeneration-promoting activity of galectin-1. Recombinant human galectin-1 secreted into the culture supernatant of transfected COS1 cells (rhGAL-1/COS1) was purified under nonreducing conditions and subjected to structural analysis. Mass spectrometric analysis of peptide fragments from rhGAL-1/COS1 revealed that the secreted protein exists as an oxidized form containing three intramolecular disulfide bonds (Cys2–Cys130, Cys16–Cys88 and Cys42–Cys60). Recombinant human galectin-1 (rhGAL-1) and a galectin-1 mutant in which all six cysteine residues were replaced by serine (CSGAL-1) were expressed in and purified from Escherichia coli for further analysis; the purified rhGAL-1 was subjected to oxidation, which induced the same pattern of disulfide linkages as that observed in rhGAL-1/COS1. Oxidized rhGAL-1 enhanced axonal regeneration from the transected nerve sites of adult rat dorsal root ganglion explants with associated nerve stumps (5.0–5000 pg·mL−1), but it lacked lectin activity. In contrast, CSGAL-1 induced hemagglutination of rabbit erythrocytes but lacked axonal regeneration-promoting activity. These results indicate that galectin-1 promotes axonal regeneration only in the oxidized form containing three intramolecular disulfide bonds, not in the reduced form which exhibits lectin activity.