High expression of Galectin-1 in pancreatic stellate cells plays a role in the development and maintenance of an immunosuppressive microenvironment in pancreatic cancer

Int J Cancer. 2012 May 15;130(10):2337-48. doi: 10.1002/ijc.26290. Epub 2011 Nov 28.


Galectin-1 is implicated in making tumor cells immune privileged, in part by regulating the survival of infiltrating T cells. Galectin-1 is strongly expressed in activated pancreatic stellate cells (PSCs); however, whether this is linked to tumor cell immune escape in pancreatic cancer is unknown. Galectin-1 was knocked down in PSCs isolated from pancreatic tissues using small interfering RNA (siRNA), or overexpressed using recombinant lentiviruses, and the PSCs were cocultured with T cells. CD3(+) , CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cell apoptosis was detected by flow cytometry; T cell IL-2, IL-4, IL-5 and INF-γ production levels were quantified using ELISA. Immunohistochemical analysis showed increased numbers of PSCs expressed Galectin-1 (p < 0.01) and pancreatic cancers had increased CD3(+) T cell densities (p < 0.01) compared to normal pancreas or chronic pancreatitis samples. In coculture experiments, PSCs that overexpressed Galectin-1 induced apoptosis of CD4(+) T cells (p < 0.01) and CD8(+) T cells (p < 0.05) significantly, compared to normal PSCs. Knockdown of Galectin-1 in PSCs increased CD4(+) T cell (p < 0.01) and CD8(+) T cell viability (p < 0.05). Supernatants from T cells cocultured with PSCs that overexpressed Galectin-1 contained significantly increased levels of Th2 cytokines (IL-4 and IL-5, p < 0.01) and decreased Th1 cytokines (IL-2 and INF-γ, p < 0.01). However, the knockdown of PSC Galectin-1 had the opposite effect on Th1 and Th2 cytokine secretion. Our study suggests that the overexpression of Galectin-1 in PSCs induced T cell apoptosis and Th2 cytokine secretion, which may regulate PSC-dependent immunoprivilege in the pancreatic cancer microenvironment. Galectin-1 may provide a novel candidate target for pancreatic cancer immunotherapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • CD3 Complex / metabolism
  • Female
  • Galectin 1 / genetics
  • Galectin 1 / metabolism*
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Humans
  • Interleukins / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Pancreatic Stellate Cells / immunology
  • Pancreatic Stellate Cells / metabolism*
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Tumor Escape*
  • Tumor Microenvironment / immunology


  • CD3 Complex
  • Galectin 1
  • Interleukins