Critical role for galectin-3 in airway inflammation and bronchial hyperresponsiveness in a murine model of asthma

Am J Pathol. 2004 Dec;165(6):2045-53. doi: 10.1016/S0002-9440(10)63255-5.


Galectin-3 is a member of a beta-galactoside-binding animal lectin family. Previous in vitro studies have demonstrated that galectin-3 is involved in a number of activities; however, the roles of this lectin in physiological and pathological processes in vivo remain to be elucidated. Herein, we show, in a murine model of ovalbumin (OVA)-induced asthma that 1) peribronchial inflammatory cells expressed large amounts of galectin-3; 2) bronchoalveolar lavage fluid from OVA-challenged mice contained significantly higher levels of galectin-3 compared to control mice; and 3) macrophages in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid were the major cell type that contained galectin-3. We investigated the role of galectin-3 in the allergic airway response by comparing galectin-3-deficient (gal3(-/-)) mice and wild-type (gal3(+/+)) mice. OVA-sensitized gal3(-/-) mice developed fewer eosinophils and lower goblet cell metaplasia, after airway OVA challenge compared to similarly treated gal3(+/+) mice. In addition, the OVA-sensitized gal3(-/-) mice developed significantly less airway hyperresponsiveness after airway OVA challenge compared to gal3(+/+) mice. Finally, gal3(-/-) mice developed a lower Th2 response, but a higher Th1 response, suggesting that galectin-3 regulates the Th1/Th2 response. We conclude that galectin-3 may play an important role in the pathogenesis of asthma and inhibitors of this lectin may prove useful for treatment of this disease.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asthma / metabolism*
  • Asthma / pathology
  • Bronchial Hyperreactivity / etiology
  • Bronchial Hyperreactivity / metabolism*
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Eosinophils / immunology
  • Eosinophils / pathology
  • Female
  • Galectin 3 / physiology*
  • Immunization
  • Immunoglobulin E / pharmacology
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Ovalbumin / administration & dosage
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Th1 Cells / immunology
  • Th2 Cells / immunology


  • Cytokines
  • Galectin 3
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Immunoglobulin E
  • Ovalbumin