Associations of galectin-3 levels with measures of vascular disease in patients with rheumatoid arthritis

Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2024 Apr:65:152357. doi: 10.1016/j.semarthrit.2023.152357. Epub 2024 Jan 15.


Objectives: Galectin-3 is a beta-galactoside-binding lectin and is a marker of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in the general population. It may also play a role in joint inflammation. We asked whether serum galectin-3 is a useful marker of subclinical vascular disease in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Methods: RA patients without clinical CVD underwent assessment of coronary artery calcium (CAC) score, aortic inflammation (using 18Fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission-computed tomography [FDG PET/CT]), and myocardial flow reserve (MFR). Aorta FDG uptake was measured as standardized uptake values (SUV). Generalized linear models were constructed to explore the associations of galectin-3 levels with CAC score, aortic SUV, and MFR.

Results: A total of 124 RA patients (mean age 57; 82 % women, 45 % Hispanic; median RA duration 6.8 years; 75 % seropositive; median CDAI 16; 33 % on prednisone; 89 % on DMARDs; median CAC score 0; median aorta SUV 2.59; mean MFR 2.86; median galectin-3 level 8.54 ng/mL) were analyzed. In univariable analysis, higher galectin-3 levels were associated with higher aortic SUV (p = 0.007) but CAC score and MFR were not. In multivariable analysis, higher galectin-3 level remained significantly associated with higher aortic SUV (ß Coefficient=0.1786, p value=0.002).

Conclusion: In our cohort of RA patients without clinical CVD, higher serum galectin-3 levels were independently associated with higher levels of aortic inflammation, but not CAC score or MFR. This suggests that galectin-3 may be a biomarker for an inflammatory and potentially reversible stage, but not a later (calcified) stage, of atherosclerosis in patients with RA.

Keywords: Aorta; Cardiovascular; Galectin-3; Rheumatoid arthritis.

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid* / complications
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid* / diagnostic imaging
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid* / epidemiology
  • Atherosclerosis* / complications
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / complications
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18
  • Galectin 3
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Positron Emission Tomography Computed Tomography


  • Galectin 3
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18