Galectins are emerging as a new class of bioactive molecules with specific immunomodulatory properties. Galectin-1 (Gal-1), a member of this family, has been shown to induce apoptosis of mature T cells and immature thymocytes. To gain insight into the intracellular signals transduced by Gal-1 upon binding to mature T cells, we investigated whether this protein triggered activation of the dimeric AP-1 transcription factor. A marked increase in the binding of nuclear extracts to synthetic oligonucleotides containing the AP-1 consensus sequence, could be detected by an electrophoretic mobility shift assay, when T cells were cultured for 30 min in the presence of Gal-1. This DNA-binding activity was preceded by a rapid increase in the levels of c-Jun mRNA, as determined by Northern blot analysis. Requirement of AP-1 for Gal-1-induced apoptosis was confirmed by the dose-dependent reduction on the level of DNA fragmentation observed when cells were pre-treated with curcumin (an inhibitor of AP-1 activation) before exposure to Gal-1. Finally, evidence is also provided by Western blot analysis, showing that Gal-1 inhibits Concanavalin A (Con A) induction of Bcl-2 protein. Results presented in this study provide the first experimental evidence regarding AP-1 and Bcl-2 as targets of the signal transduction pathway triggered by Gal-1 and set the basis for a more in depth understanding of the molecular mechanisms of T-cell death regulation.