The coming of age of galectins as immunomodulatory agents: impact of these carbohydrate binding proteins in T cell physiology and chronic inflammatory disorders

Ann Rheum Dis. 2005 Nov;64 Suppl 4(Suppl 4):iv96-103. doi: 10.1136/ard.2005.044347.


Immune cell homoeostasis is attributed to multiple distinct safety valves that are interconnected and intervene at defined checkpoints of the life cycle of immunocytes to guarantee clonal expansion and functional inactivation of self-reactive potentially autoaggressive lymphocytes. Galectins, animal lectins defined by shared consensus amino acid sequence and affinity for beta-galactose containing oligosaccharides, are found on various cells of the immune system, and their expression is associated with the differentiation and activation status of these cells. Over the past few years, galectins have been implicated in the regulation of many aspects of T cell physiology such as cell activation, differentiation, and apoptosis. In addition, a growing body of experimental evidence indicates that galectins may play critical roles in the modulation of chronic inflammatory disorders, autoimmunity, and cancer. Given the increased interest of immunologists in this field, the growing body of information raised during the past few years and the potential use of galectins as novel anti-inflammatory agents or targets for immunosuppressive drugs, we will summarise recent advances on the role of galectins in different aspects of T cell physiology and their impact in the development and/or resolution of chronic inflammatory disorders, autoimmunity, and cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmune Diseases / drug therapy
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Galectins / immunology*
  • Galectins / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / drug therapy
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology
  • Rats
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Galectins