• apoptosis;
  • bladder cancer;
  • cell adhesion;
  • galectins;
  • lectins;
  • progression;
  • urothelial cancer

Aims:  Lectins, and especially galectins, appear to be important in malignancy-associated processes. The aim was to analyse comprehensively the presence of galectins in urothelial tumours.

Methods and results:  Non-cross-reactive antibodies against seven family members from the three subgroups (prototype: galectin-1, -2 and -7; chimera type: galectin-3; tandem-repeat type: galectin-4, -8 and -9) were used. Gene expression was monitored in specimens of normal urothelium, fresh tumour tissue and cell lines by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The presence and evidence of tumour-associated up-regulation were shown for galectin-1 and -3. This was less clear-cut for galectin-4 and -8. Galectin-7 was expressed in all cell lines; galectin-2 and -9 were detected at comparatively low levels. Galectin-2, -3 and -8 up-regulation was observed in superficial tumours, but not in muscle-invasive tumours (P < 0.05). Immunoreactivity correlated with tumour grading for galectin-1, -2 and -8, and disease-dependent mortality correlated with galectin-2 and -8 expression. Binding sites were visualized using labelled galectins.

Conclusions:  The results demonstrate a complex expression pattern of the galectin network in urothelial carcinomas. Galectin-1, -2, -3 and -8 are both potential disease markers and also possible targets for bladder cancer therapy.