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Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2005 Apr;136(4):385-400.

Regulatory roles of galectins in the immune response.

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Department of Dermatology, University of California, Davis, School of Medicine, Sacramento, Calif., USA.


Galectins are a family of animal lectins with affinity for beta-galactosides. They are differentially expressed by various immune cells and their expression levels appear to be dependent on cell differentiation and activation. They can interact with cell-surface and extracellular matrix glycoconjugates (glycoproteins and glycolipids), through lectin-carbohydrate interactions. Through this action, they can promote cell growth, affect cell survival, modulate cell adhesions, and induce cell migration. They appear to do so by binding to different glycoconjugates decorated by suitable saccharides, rather than through specific receptors. Galectins do not have a classical signal peptide and are often localized in intracellular compartments, including the nucleus. Intracellularly, they can regulate cell growth and survival by interacting with cytoplasmic and nuclear proteins, through protein-protein interactions, thereby affecting intracellular signaling pathways. Current research indicates that galectins play important roles in the immune response through regulating the homeostasis and functions of the immune cells.

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