A 14K β-galactoside-binding lecttn (galectin-1) is present in many animal tissues. In a search for endogenous ligands, we surveyed galectin-1-binding proteins in human placenta. Extract of human placenta with 2 M urea was applied to a Sepharose 4B column conjugated with galectin-1 purified from frog (Rana catesbeiana) eggs. Two major proteins eluted with 100 mM lactose from the column-bound fraction showed apparent molecular masses of 220 and 180 kDa on SDS-PAGE under reducing conditions. Western blotting analysis using monoclonal antibodies indicated that these proteins were fibronectin and laminin, respectively. Most placenta] and amniotic fibronectins bound strongly to the column, whereas almost all plasma fibronectin passed through the column. The galectin-1, fibronectin and laminin were immunohistochemically shown to be co-localized in the extracellular matrix of placental tissue. In a cell attachment assay, rhabdosarcoma cells adhered to a plate coated with placental fibronectin, even in the presence of GRGDS peptide, if galectin-1 were also present This adhesive effect of galectin-1 was inhibited by lactose. These results indicate that tissue fibronectin, as well as laminin, serve as endogenous ligands for galectin-1, suggesting that galectin-1 may play a role in assembly of the extracellular matrix, or in the control of cell adhesion based on lectin-extracellular matrix interaction.