Review

Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences

, Volume 64, Issue 13, pp 1679-1700

First online:

Galectins: matricellular glycan-binding proteins linking cell adhesion, migration, and survival

  • M. T. ElolaAffiliated withInstituto de Química y Fisicoquímica Biológicas (IQUIFIB), Facultad de Farmacia y Bioquímica, Universidad de Buenos Aires
  • , C. Wolfenstein-TodelAffiliated withInstituto de Química y Fisicoquímica Biológicas (IQUIFIB), Facultad de Farmacia y Bioquímica, Universidad de Buenos Aires
  • , M. F. TroncosoAffiliated withInstituto de Química y Fisicoquímica Biológicas (IQUIFIB), Facultad de Farmacia y Bioquímica, Universidad de Buenos Aires
  • , G. R. VastaAffiliated withCenter of Marine Biotechnology, University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute
  • , G. A. RabinovichAffiliated withInstituto de Biología y Medicina Experimental IBYME, CONICET Email author 

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Abstract.

Galectins are a taxonomically widespread family of glycan-binding proteins, defined by at least one conserved carbohydrate-recognition domain with a canonical amino acid sequence and affinity for β-galactosides. Because of their anti-adhesive as well as pro-adhesive extracellular functions, galectins appear to be a novel class of adhesion-modulating proteins collectively known as matricellular proteins (which include thrombospondin, SPARC, tenascin, hevin, and disintegrins). Accordingly, galectins can display de-adhesive effects when presented as soluble proteins to cells in a strong adhesive state. In this context, the de-adhesive properties of galectins should be considered as physiologically relevant as the proadhesive effects of these glycan-binding proteins. This article focuses on the roles of mammalian galectins in cell adhesion, spreading, and migration, and the crossregulation of these functions. Although careful attention should be paid when examining individual galectin functions due to overlapping distributions, these intriguing glycan-binding proteins offer promising possibilities for the treatment and intervention of a wide variety of pathological processes, including cancer, inflammation, and autoimmunity.

Keywords.

Galectins adhesion de-adhesion spreading migration inflammation immunity