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Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2004 Mar;19(3):602-7.

Galectin-3-positive cell infiltration in human diabetic nephropathy.

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  • 1Second Department of Internal Medicine, National Defense Medical College, Tokorozawa, Saitama, Japan.



Galectin-3 has several functions, such as cell proliferation, regulation of apoptosis and interaction of cell adhesion, and has a high binding affinity for advanced glycation end products. In animal models with diabetic nephropathy (DMN) or acute renal failure, galectin-3 is known to be upregulated. However, galectin-3 expression has not been investigated in human kidney diseases.


Using immunohistochemistry we examined galectin-3 expression in renal biopsy specimens obtained from 37 patients with nephropathy: DMN (n = 9), IgA nephropathy (n = 9), crescentic glomerulonephritis (n = 8), membranous nephropathy (n = 6) and minimal change nephrotic syndrome (n = 5).


In normal human kidney, galectin-3 was found in distal tubuli, but not in glomeruli. However, galectin-3-positive cell infiltration was observed in glomeruli of 12 patients. Galectin-3-positive cells, also stained with CD68, were significantly more numerous in glomeruli of DMN than in glomeruli of other nephropathies. The ratio of galectin-3-positive cells to the total number of macrophages in tubules was also significantly increased in DMN. There was a significant correlation between the number of galectin-3-positive cells in glomeruli and urinary protein excretion in all patients (r = 0.616, P<0.001). In diabetic patients, the number of galectin-3-positive cells in glomeruli closely correlated with the regression rate of renal function (r = -0.930, P<0.005).


These findings suggest that galectin-3-positive cell infiltration may play an important role in the progression of DMN, and the degree of its expression may be predictive of poor prognosis of DMN.

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