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Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2019 May 1;316(5):L784-L797. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00186.2018. Epub 2019 Feb 6.

Galectin-3 is expressed in vascular smooth muscle cells and promotes pulmonary hypertension through changes in proliferation, apoptosis, and fibrosis.

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Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University , Augusta, Georgia.
Vascular Biology Center, Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University , Augusta, Georgia.
Galectin Therapeutics, Inc. , Norcross, Georgia.
Department of Pathology, Hannover Medical School , Hannover , Germany.
Department of Physiology, Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University , Augusta, Georgia.
Department of Forensic Medicine, Nanjing Medical University , Nanjing, Jiangsu , China.


A defining characteristic of pulmonary hypertension (PH) is the extensive remodeling of pulmonary arteries (PAs), which results in progressive increases in vascular resistance and stiffness and eventual failure of the right ventricle. There is no cure for PH and identification of novel molecular mechanisms that underlie increased proliferation, reduced apoptosis, and excessive extracellular matrix production in pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells (PASMCs) is a vital objective. Galectin-3 (Gal-3) is a chimeric lectin and potent driver of many aspects of fibrosis, but its role in regulating PASMC behavior in PH remains poorly understood. Herein, we evaluated the importance of increased Gal-3 expression and signaling on PA vascular remodeling and cardiopulmonary function in experimental models of PH. Gal-3 expression was quantified by qRT-PCR, immunoblotting, and immunofluorescence imaging, and its functional role was assessed by specific Gal-3 inhibitors and CRISPR/Cas9-mediated knockout of Gal-3 in the rat. In rat models of PH, we observed increased Gal-3 expression in PASMCs, which stimulated migration and resistance to apoptosis, whereas silencing or genetic deletion reduced cellular migration and PA fibrosis and increased apoptosis. Gal-3 inhibitors attenuated and reversed PA remodeling and fibrosis, as well as hemodynamic indices in monocrotaline (MCT)-treated rats in vivo. These results were supported by genetic deletion of Gal-3 in both MCT and Sugen Hypoxia rat models. In conclusion, our results suggest that elevated Gal-3 levels contribute to inappropriate PA remodeling in PH by enhancing multiple profibrotic mechanisms. Therapeutic strategies targeting Gal-3 may be of benefit in the treatment of PH.


Galectin-3; cell migration; fibrosis; knockout rat; pulmonary hypertension; vascular smooth muscle


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