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Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2006;38(10):1741-58. Epub 2006 Apr 28.

Unique sequence and expression profiles of rat galectins-5 and -9 as a result of species-specific gene divergence.

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  • 1Institute for Physiological Chemistry, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Veterinärstr. 13, D-80539 Munich, Germany.


Presence of species-specific gene divergence in a protein family prompts to thoroughly study structural aspects and expression profiles of the products. We herein focus on two members of an adhesion/growth-regulatory group of endogenous lectins, i.e. galectins-5 and -9. After first ascertaining species specificity of occurrence of galectin-5, constituted by a short section of rat galectin-9's N-terminal part and its C-terminal carbohydrate recognition domain, by database mining, we next detected and defined sequence differences in the proximal promoter region between the two genes. The ensuing hypothesis for distinct expression profiles was tested first by RT-PCR and then by immunohistochemistry. For the latter purpose, we employed antibodies rigorously controlled for absence of cross-reactivity including assays with various other galectins and, if necessary, refined by chromatographic removal of bi- or oligospecific activities. Indeed, the galectins have non-identical expression profiles, qualitative differences, e.g. seen for galectin-5-positive bone marrow and erythrocytes or for hitherto unknown expression in cells of the theca folliculi and galectin-9-positive skin epidermis and esophageal epithelium. Lack of hepatocyte or renal cortex staining separates these two expression profiles in rat from localization of galectin-9 in mouse. Interspecies extrapolation in a case of a galectin involved in unique gene divergence may thus not be valid. The presented results on galectin-5 relative to galectin-9 intimate distinct functions especially in erythropoiesis and imply currently unknown mechanisms to compensate its absence from the galectin network in other mammals.

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