Fourteen members of the galectin family, proteins with conserved carbohydrate-recognition domains that bind beta-galactoside, have been cloned and more are expected to be discovered in the near future. Many aspects of galectin biology have been thoroughly explored, and functional studies have implicated these proteins in cell growth, differentiation and apoptosis, in addition to cell adhesion, chemoattraction and cell migration. In some cases a galectin can either promote or suppress cell growth, depending on the cell types and doses used. Galectin-3 is the only member known so far to inhibit apoptosis, while galectin-1, -7 and -9 promote this cellular process. Galectins can act either extracellularly or intracellularly to exert effects on cell growth and apoptosis.