Vol 92, No 10 (2021)
Review paper
Published online: 2021-09-24

open access

Page views 6810
Article views/downloads 830
Get Citation

Connect on Social Media

Connect on Social Media

The role of galectins in obstetrics with particular emphasis on premature preterm rupture of membranes

Dorota G. Kolanowska1, Aleksy Swietlicki1, Krzysztof Drews1, Agnieszka Seremak-Mrozikiewicz1
Pubmed: 34747001
Ginekol Pol 2021;92(10):731-734.


Premature rupture of membranes (pPROM) affects about 4% of pregnancies and remains the main cause of preterm delivery (PTD). We currently lack a method for screening patients at high risk of pPROM as well as causal treatment for this yet not fully understood pathology of pregnancy. Promising, potential markers are proteins from a family of lectins-galectins. To date, 13 subtypes have been identified in humans. Particular galectins inhibit the mother’s immune response to the fetus, thus enabling the maintenance of pregnancy and delivering at term. So far, the role of some galectins has been proven in relation to early pregnancy complications, hypertension and preeclampsia, fetal growth disturbances (including fetuses small for gestational age, fetal growth restriction and macrosomia) and even in physiological processes which occur during healthy pregnancy. In reference to pPROM galectins seem to be linked to pathomechanisms leading to weakening of the structure of membranes and in result their rupture. Examination of galectins appears to be crucial for understanding certain pathologies of pregnancy and gives hope for the effective identification of risk groups and future causal treatment.

Article available in PDF format

View PDF Download PDF file


  1. Mercer BM, Crouse DT, Goldenberg RL, et al. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units Network. The antibiotic treatment of PPROM study: systemic maternal and fetal markers and perinatal outcomes. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2012; 206(2): 145.e1–145.e9.
  2. Montenegro D, Romero R, Kim SS, et al. Expression patterns of microRNAs in the chorioamniotic membranes: a role for microRNAs in human pregnancy and parturition. J Pathol. 2009; 217(1): 113–121.
  3. Silverman R, Wojtowycz M. Risk factors in premature rupture of membranes. Primary Care Update for OB/GYNS. 1998; 5(4): 181.
  4. Tuuli MG, Longtine MS, Nelson DM. Review: Oxygen and trophoblast biology--a source of controversy. Placenta. 2011; 32 Suppl 2: S109–S118.
  5. Richardson LS, Vargas G, Brown T, et al. Discovery and characterization of human amniochorionic membrane microfractures. Am J Pathol. 2017; 187(12): 2821–2830.
  6. Cooper D. Galectinomics: finding themes in complexity. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - General Subjects. 2002; 1572(2-3): 209–231.
  7. Than NG, Romero R, Goodman M, et al. A primate subfamily of galectins expressed at the maternal-fetal interface that promote immune cell death. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009; 106(24): 9731–9736.
  8. Blois SM, Conrad ML, Freitag N, et al. Galectins in angiogenesis: consequences for gestation. J Reprod Immunol. 2015; 108: 33–41.
  9. Cumming RD, Liu FT, Vasta GR. Galectins. In: Varki A, Cummings RD, Esko JD, et al. ed. Essentials of Glycobiology. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, New York 2025.
  10. Blois SM, Dveksler G, Vasta GR, et al. Pregnancy galectinology: insights into a complex network of glycan binding proteins. Front Immunol. 2019; 10: 1166.
  11. El-Azzamy H, Balogh A, Romero R, et al. Characteristic changes in decidual gene expression signature in spontaneous term parturition. J Pathol Transl Med. 2017; 51(3): 264–283.
  12. Jerzak M, Bischof P. Apoptosis in the first trimester human placenta: the role in maintaining immune privilege at the maternal–foetal interface and in the trophoblast remodelling. European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology. 2002; 100(2): 138–142.
  13. Arck PC, Hecher K. Fetomaternal immune cross-talk and its consequences for maternal and offspring's health. Nat Med. 2013; 19(5): 548–556.
  14. Redman CWG, Sargent IL. Circulating microparticles in normal pregnancy and pre-eclampsia. Placenta. 2008; 29 Suppl A: S73–S77.
  15. Blois SM, Ilarregui JM, Tometten M, et al. A pivotal role for galectin-1 in fetomaternal tolerance. Nat Med. 2007; 13(12): 1450–1457.
  16. Tirado-González I, Freitag N, Barrientos G, et al. Galectin-1 influences trophoblast immune evasion and emerges as a predictive factor for the outcome of pregnancy. Mol Hum Reprod. 2013; 19(1): 43–53.
  17. Molvarec A, Blois SM, Stenczer B, et al. Peripheral blood galectin-1-expressing T and natural killer cells in normal pregnancy and preeclampsia. Clin Immunol. 2011; 139(1): 48–56.
  18. Garín MI, Chu CC, Golshayan D, et al. Galectin-1: a key effector of regulation mediated by CD4+CD25+ T cells. Blood. 2007; 109(5): 2058–2065.
  19. Kopcow HD, Rosetti F, Leung Y, et al. T cell apoptosis at the maternal-fetal interface in early human pregnancy, involvement of galectin-1. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008; 105(47): 18472–18477.
  20. Freitag N, Tirado-González I, Barrientos G, et al. Interfering with Gal-1-mediated angiogenesis contributes to the pathogenesis of preeclampsia. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013; 110(28): 11451–11456.
  21. Li YH, Zhou WH, Tao Yu, et al. The Galectin-9/Tim-3 pathway is involved in the regulation of NK cell function at the maternal-fetal interface in early pregnancy. Cell Mol Immunol. 2016; 13(1): 73–81.
  22. Sibai B, Dekker G, Kupferminc M. Pre-eclampsia. The Lancet. 2005; 365(9461): 785–799.
  23. Shankar R, Johnson MP, Williamson NA, et al. Molecular markers of preterm labor in the choriodecidua. Reprod Sci. 2010; 17(3): 297–310.
  24. Jeschke U, Mayr D, Schiessl B, et al. Expression of galectin-1, -3 (gal-1, gal-3) and the Thomsen-Friedenreich (TF) antigen in normal, IUGR, preeclamptic and HELLP placentas. Placenta. 2007; 28(11-12): 1165–1173.
  25. Kliman HJ, Sammar M, Grimpel YI, et al. Placental protein 13 and decidual zones of necrosis: an immunologic diversion that may be linked to preeclampsia. Reprod Sci. 2012; 19(1): 16–30.
  26. Huppertz B, Meiri H, Gizurarson S, et al. Placental protein 13 (PP13): a new biological target shifting individualized risk assessment to personalized drug design combating pre-eclampsia. Hum Reprod Update. 2013; 19(4): 391–405.
  27. Demmert M, Faust K, Bohlmann MK, et al. Galectin-3 in cord blood of term and preterm infants. Clin Exp Immunol. 2012; 167(2): 246–251.
  28. Hutter S, Knabl J, Andergassen U, et al. Fetal gender specific expression of tandem-repeat galectins in placental tissue from normally progressed human pregnancies and intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). Placenta. 2015; 36(12): 1352–1361.
  29. Hutter S, Knabl J, Andergassen U, et al. Placental expression patterns of galectin-1, galectin-2, galectin-3 and galectin-13 in cases of Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR). Int J Mol Sci. 2016; 17(4): 523.
  30. Boutsikou T, Giotaki M, Boutsikou M, et al. Cord blood galectin-1 and -3 concentrations in term pregnancies with normal restricted and increased fetal growth. J Perinat Med. 2015; 43(3): 305–309.
  31. Nhan-Chang CL, Romero R, Tarca AL, et al. Characterization of the transcriptome of chorioamniotic membranes at the site of rupture in spontaneous labor at term. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2010; 202(5): 462.e1–462.41.
  32. Hassan SS, Romero R, Tarca AL, et al. The molecular basis for sonographic cervical shortening at term: identification of differentially expressed genes and the epithelial-mesenchymal transition as a function of cervical length. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2010; 203(5): 472.e1–472.e14.
  33. Than NG, Kim SS, Abbas A, et al. Chorioamnionitis and increased galectin-1 expression in PPROM --an anti-inflammatory response in the fetal membranes? Am J Reprod Immunol. 2008; 60(4): 298–311.
  34. DiGiulio DB, Romero R, Amogan HP, et al. Microbial prevalence, diversity and abundance in amniotic fluid during preterm labor: a molecular and culture-based investigation. PLoS One. 2008; 3(8): e3056.
  35. Stefanoska I, Tadić J, Vilotić A, et al. Histological chorioamnionitis in preterm prelabor rupture of the membranes is associated with increased expression of galectin-3 by amniotic epithelium. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2017; 30(18): 2232–2236.
  36. Ilarregui JM, Bianco GA, Toscano MA, et al. The coming of age of galectins as immunomodulatory agents: impact of these carbohydrate binding proteins in T cell physiology and chronic inflammatory disorders. Ann Rheum Dis. 2005; 64 Suppl 4: iv96–i103.
  37. Kaya B, Turhan U, Sezer S, et al. Maternal serum galectin-1 and galectin-3 levels in pregnancies complicated with preterm prelabor rupture of membranes. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2020; 33(5): 861–868.