• galectins;
  • inflammation;
  • allergic inflammation;
  • autoimmune disease;
  • atherosclerosis

Galectins are animal lectins that bind to β-galactosides, such as lactose and N-acetyllactosamine, in free form or contained in glycoproteins or glycolipids. They are located intracellularly or extracellularly. In the latter they exhibit bivalent or multivalent interactions with glycans on cell surfaces and induce various cellular responses, including production of cytokines and other inflammatory mediators, cell adhesion, migration, and apoptosis. Furthermore, they can form lattices with membrane glycoprotein receptors and modulate receptor properties. Intracellular galectins can participate in signaling pathways and alter biological responses, including apoptosis, cell differentiation, and cell motility. Current evidence indicates that galectins play important roles in acute and chronic inflammatory responses, as well as other diverse pathological processes. Galectin involvement in some processes in vivo has been discovered, or confirmed, through studies of genetically engineered mouse strains, each deficient in a given galectin. Current evidence also suggests that galectins may be therapeutic targets or employed as therapeutic agents for these inflammatory responses.