The reading of glycan-encoded signals by tissue lectins is considered a major route of the flow of biological information in many (patho)physiological processes. The arising challenge for current research is to proceed from work on a distinct protein to family-wide testing of lectin function. Having previously identified homodimeric galectin-1 and chimera-type galectin-3 as molecular switches in osteoarthritis progression, we here provide proof-of-principle evidence for an intra-network cooperation of galectins with three types of modular architecture. We show that the presence of tandem-repeat-type galectin-8 significantly correlated with cartilage degeneration and that it is secreted by osteoarthritic chondrocytes. Glycan-inhibitable surface binding of galectin-8 to these cells increased gene transcription and the secretion of functional disease markers. The natural variant galectin-8 (F19Y) was less active than the prevalent form. Genome-wide array analysis revealed induction of a pro-degradative/inflammatory gene signature, largely under control of NF-κB signaling. This signature overlapped with respective gene-expression patterns elicited by galectins-1 and -3, but also presented supplementary features. Functional assays with mixtures of galectins that mimic the pathophysiological status unveiled cooperation between the three galectins. Our findings shape the novel concept to consider individual galectins as part of a so far not realized teamwork in osteoarthritis pathogenesis, with relevance beyond this disease.
Keywords: Chondrocytes; Inflammation; Interleukin; Lectin; NF-κB.