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J Biol Chem. 2004 Feb 6;279(6):4705-12. Epub 2003 Nov 14.

Presentation of galectin-1 by extracellular matrix triggers T cell death.

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Department of Pathology, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA.


Apoptotic elimination of T cells at sites of inflammation or infiltration into tumors limits an effective immune response. T cell apoptosis can be initiated by a variety of triggers, including galectin-1, a soluble, secreted lectin that binds to oligosaccharide ligands on cell surface glycoproteins, or to oligosaccharide ligands on extracellular matrix glycoproteins in tissue stroma. Although galectin-1 has no transmembrane domain and is secreted from cells that make it, it is not clear if galectin-1 functions as a soluble death trigger in vivo. We examined the ability of stromal cells secreting galectin-1 to kill T cells. Although the stromal cells synthesized abundant galectin-1, the majority of the galectin-1 remained bound to the cell surface, and stromal cell-associated galectin-1 killed bound T cells. In contrast, insufficient amounts of functional galectin-1 were released from the stromal cells into the media to kill T cells in the absence of contact with stromal cells. However, when stromal cells were grown on Matrigel, a mixture of extracellular matrix proteins, or on permeable membranes above Matrigel, secreted galectin-1 bound to Matrigel and killed T cells without stromal cell contact. Ten-fold less galectin-1 on Matrigel was sufficient to kill adherent T cells compared with soluble galectin-1. These results demonstrate that galectin-1 in extracellular matrix is able to directly kill susceptible T cells. Because increased galectin-1 deposition in tumor stroma occurs with tumor progression in various types of cancer, galectin-1 in stroma may act locally in the apoptotic elimination of infiltrating T cells during an immune response.

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