Galectins are a subfamily of lectin proteins with high affinity for β-galactosides. In normal tissue and blood, galectins are expressed at low levels, but they are increased in serum, plasma and urine in neoplastic diseases. Galectins also play an important role in other chronic diseases such as cardiac insufficiency, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and liver cirrhosis. Galectins are present in numerous locations within the cell, such as nucleus, cytoplasm and plasma membrane, but also extracellularly. Gal-1 can recognize N-glycans on VEGFR2 and trigger a VEGF-like signaling response thereby promoting vascular regrowth in absence of VEGF. Galectins are involved in cancer-promoting processes such as proliferation, apoptosis and immune modulation. Galectins produced by tumor cells bind to T-cell glycoprotein receptors like CD45 and CD71. Potential adverse effects of galectin inhibition were observed in human breast carcinoma. In breast cancer cells, Gal-1 and Gal-3 compete for cell surface receptors while generating opposite functions. Gal-3 binds with K-Ras and activates the MEK-ERK signaling pathway, while Gal-1 binds with H-Ras and activates PI3K/AKT cascade hence modulating rather distinct cellular functions.


1.Kamil Wdowiak,et al. Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Jan; 19(1): 210.