Background: Galectins are a family of soluble lectins expressed in a variety of tissues, which play many important regulatory roles in inflammation, immunity, and cancer. The up-regulation of galectin-3 in hypertrophied hearts and the development of fibrosis have been shown in experimental studies. Increased galectin-3 levels are associated with poor long-term survival in end-stage heart failure (HF). We examined the relationship between plasma galectin-3 levels and the myocardial tissue expression of galectin-3 in patients with end-stage HF.
Material and methods: Expression of galectin-3 was assessed by real-time PCR and immunohistochemistry in left ventricle and atrial myocardium of patients (n=12) with end-stage HF undergoing heart transplantation. All patients gave informed consent. Serum expression of galectin-3 was assessed by ELISA in serum from 20 patients with end-stage HF and in 20 healthy volunteers who served as controls.
Results: Expression of galectin-3 was similar in the myocardium of patients in comparison to the control group, independently of the anatomical area (HF vs. healthy ventricle: 1.73E-02 vs. 1.50 E-02; HF vs. healthy atrium: 1.32E-02 vs. 1.16E-02). However, serum expression of galectin-3 was significantly higher in the end-stage HF patients compared to the healthy controls (13.02±10.6 vs. 3.7±1.3 ng/ml; p<0.05).
Conclusions: Plasma galectin-3 levels correlate with the ejection fraction and are elevated in patients with HF. However, the myocardial expression of galectin-3 does not correlate with the ventricular ejection fraction. Our data support the use of galectin-3 as a marker of heart insufficiency.