Role of galectins in re-epithelialization of wounds
Re-epithelialization is a critical contributing process in wound healing in the human body. When this process is compromised, impaired or delayed, serious disorders of wound healing may result that are painful, difficult to treat, and affect a variety of human tissues. Recent studies have demonstrated that members of the galectin class of β-galactoside-binding proteins modulate re-epithelialization of wounds by novel carbohydrate-based recognition systems. Galectins constitute a family of widely distributed carbohydrate-binding proteins with the affinity for the β-galactoside-containing glycans found on many cell surface and extracellular matrix (ECM) glycoproteins. There are 15 members of the mammalian galectin family that so far have been identified. Studies of the role of galectins in wound healing have revealed that galectin-3 promotes re-epithelialization of corneal, intestinal and skin wounds; galectin-7 promotes re-epithelialization of corneal, skin, kidney and uterine wounds; and galectins-2 and -4 promote re-epithelialization of intestinal wounds. Promising prospects for developing novel therapeutic strategies for the treatment of problematic, slow- or non-healing wounds are implicit in the findings that galectins stimulate the re-epithelialization of wounds of the cornea, skin, intestinal tract and kidney. Molecular mechanisms by which galectins modulate the process of wound healing are beginning to emerge and are described in this review.