Galectins and their ligands: amplifiers, silencers or tuners of the inflammatory response?

Trends Immunol. 2002 Jun;23(6):313-20. doi: 10.1016/s1471-4906(02)02232-9.


Recent evidence has implicated galectins and their ligands as master regulators of immune cell homeostasis. Whereas some members of this family, such as galectin-3, behave as amplifiers of the inflammatory cascade, others, such as galectin-1, trigger homeostatic signals to shut off T-cell effector functions. These carbohydrate-binding proteins, identified by shared consensus amino acid sequences and affinity for beta-galactoside-containing sugars, participate in the homeostasis of the inflammatory response, either by regulating cell survival and signaling, influencing cell growth and chemotaxis, interfering with cytokine secretion, mediating cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions or influencing tumor progression and metastasis. The current wealth of new information promises a future scenario in which individual members of the galectin family or their ligands will be used as powerful anti-inflammatory mediators and selective modulators of the immune response.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Sugars / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology
  • Cattle
  • Cell Communication
  • Cell Survival
  • Chagas Disease / immunology
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Galectins
  • Hemagglutinins / classification
  • Hemagglutinins / physiology*
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Infections / immunology
  • Inflammation / metabolism*
  • Ligands
  • Mammals / immunology
  • Mammals / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred DBA
  • Models, Molecular
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Isoforms / physiology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology


  • Amino Sugars
  • Galectins
  • Hemagglutinins
  • Ligands
  • Polysaccharides
  • Protein Isoforms
  • polylactosamine