Abstract

Galectins are a family of carbohydrate-binding proteins with an affinity for β-galactosides. Galectin-1 (Gal-1) is differentially expressed by various normal and pathological tissues and appears to be functionally polyvalent, with a wide range of biological activity. The intracellular and extracellular activity of Gal-1 has been described. Evidence points to Gal-1 and its ligands as one of the master regulators of such immune responses as T-cell homeostasis and survival, T-cell immune disorders, inflammation and allergies as well as host–pathogen interactions. Gal-1 expression or overexpression in tumors and/or the tissue surrounding them must be considered as a sign of the malignant tumor progression that is often related to the long-range dissemination of tumoral cells (metastasis), to their dissemination into the surrounding normal tissue, and to tumor immune-escape. Gal-1 in its oxidized form plays a number of important roles in the regeneration of the central nervous system after injury. The targeted overexpression (or delivery) of Gal-1 should be considered as a method of choice for the treatment of some kinds of inflammation-related diseases, neurodegenerative pathologies and muscular dystrophies. In contrast, the targeted inhibition of Gal-1 expression is what should be developed for therapeutic applications against cancer progression. Gal-1 is thus a promising molecular target for the development of new and original therapeutic tools.

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