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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012 Sep;1820(9):1429-36. doi: 10.1016/j.bbagen.2011.12.016. Epub 2012 Jan 4.

Glycoproteomic identification of galectin-3 and -8 ligands in bronchoalveolar lavage of mild asthmatics and healthy subjects.

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MIG (Microbiology, Immunology, Glycobiology), Dept. of Laboratory Medicine Lund, Sweden.



Galectins, a family of small carbohydrate binding proteins, have been implicated in regulation of inflammatory reactions, including asthma and fibrosis in the lungs. Galectins are found in cells of the airways and in airway secretions, but their glycoprotein ligands there have only been studied to a very limited extent.


Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid from mild asthmatics and healthy volunteers were fractionated by affinity chromatography on the immobilized galectins. Total (10-30 μg) and galectin bound (~1-10 μg) protein fractions were identified, quantified and compared using shot-gun proteomics and spectral counts.


About 175 proteins were identified in unfractionated BAL-fluid, and about 100 bound galectin-3 and 60 bound galectin-8. These included plasma glycoproteins, and typical airway proteins such as SP-A2, PIGR and SP-B. The concentration of galectin-binding proteins was 100-300 times higher than the concentration of galectins in BAL.


The low relative concentration of galectins in BAL makes it likely that functional interactions with glycoproteins occur at sites rich in galectin, such as cells of the airways, rather than the extracellular fluid itself. The profile of galectin bound proteins differed between samples from asthma patients and healthy subjects and correlated with the presence of fibroblasts or eosinophils. This included appearance of a specific galectin-8-binding glycoform of haptoglobin, previously shown to be increased in serum in other inflammatory conditions.


It is technically feasible to identify galectin-binding glycoproteins in low concentration patient samples such as BAL-fluid, to generate biomedically interesting results. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Glycoproteomics.

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