Accumulating evidence shows that galectins play roles in the initiation and resolution phases of inflammatory responses by promoting anti- or proinflammatory effects. This study investigated the presence of three members of the galectin family (galectin-1, -3 and -9) in induced sputum samples of asthma patients, as well as their possible implication in the immunopathogenesis of human asthma. Levels of interleukin (IL)-5, IL-13, and galectins were determined in leucocytes isolated from induced sputum samples by reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RT–PCR) immunofluorescence and flow cytometry. High levels of IL-5 and IL-13 mRNA were detected in sputum cells from asthma patients. In parallel, immunoregulatory proteins galectin-1 and galectin-9 showed a reduced expression on macrophages from sputum samples compared with cells from healthy donors. In-vitro immunoassays showed that galectin-1 and galectin-9, but not galectin-3, are able to induce the production of IL-10 by peripheral blood mononuclear cells from healthy donors. These findings indicate that macrophages from sputum samples of asthma patients express low levels of galectin-1 and galectin-9, favouring the exacerbated immune response observed in this disease.