Galectins are proteins with the ability to bind β-galactosides through a conserved carbohydrate recognition domain. Galectin-1 exerts its biological effects by binding glycan ligands on proteins involved in cell adhesion and growth regulation. Galectin-1 inhibits trophoblast cell proliferation and induces syncytium formation. Its down-regulation in the syncytiotrophoblast has been associated with early pregnancy loss. In the choriocarcinoma-derived BeWo cells the galectin-1 induced growth inhibition is apoptosis-independent, but rather appears to be mediated by binding to cell surface receptors, such as the receptor tyrosine kinases REarranged during Transfection (RET) and Janus Kinase (JAK) 2 as well as vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 3. On the syncytiotrophoblast and extravillous trophoblast galectin-1 binds the Thomsen-Friedenreich disaccharide on mucin-1. The cell differentiation processes induced by binding to these receptors ultimately lead to the inhibition of proliferation and syncytium formation.
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