Galectins: regulators of acute and chronic inflammation


  • Fu-Tong Liu,

    1. Department of Dermatology, University of California Davis, School of Medicine, Sacramento, California, USA.
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  • Gabriel A. Rabinovich

    1. Laboratorio de Inmunopatología, Instituto de Biología y Medicina Experimental, Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas, Buenos Aires, Argentina
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Address for correspondence: Fu-Tong Liu, Department of Dermatology, School of Medicine, University of California, Davis, 3301 C Street, Suite 1400, Sacramento, CA. Voice: 916-734-6377; fax: 916-442-5702.


Galectins, β-galactoside-binding animal lectins, are differentially expressed by various immune cells as well as a wide range of other cell types. Extracellularly, galectins are able to exhibit bivalent or multivalent interactions with cell-surface glycans on various immune cells and exert various effects. These include cytokine and mediator production, cell adhesion, apoptosis, and chemoattraction. In addition, they can form lattices with cell-surface glycoprotein receptors, resulting in modulation of receptor functions, including clustering and endocytosis. Intracellularly, galectins can participate in signaling pathways and modulate biologic responses. These include apoptosis, cell differentiation, and cell migration. Thus, a large body of literature indicates that galectins play important roles in the immune and inflammatory responses through regulating the homeostasis and functions of immune cells. The use of mice deficient in individual galectins has provided additional evidence for the contributions of these proteins to these responses. Current research indicates that galectins play important roles in the development of acute inflammation as well as chronic inflammation associated with allergies, autoimmune diseases, atherosclerosis, infectious processes, and cancer. Thus, recombinant proteins or specific galectin inhibitors may be used as therapeutic agents for inflammatory diseases.