Galectins have emerged as potent immunoregulatory agents that control chronic inflammation through distinct mechanisms. Here, we report that treatment with Galectin-8 (Gal-8), a tandem-repeat member of the galectin family, reduces retinal pathology and prevents photoreceptor cell damage in a murine model of experimental autoimmune uveitis. Gal-8 treatment increased the number of regulatory T cells (Treg) in both the draining lymph node (dLN) and the inflamed retina. Moreover, a greater percentage of Treg cells in the dLN and retina of Gal-8 treated animals expressed the inhibitory coreceptor cytotoxic T lymphocyte antigen (CTLA)-4, the immunosuppressive cytokine IL-10, and the tissue-homing integrin CD103. Treg cells in the retina of Gal-8-treated mice were primarily inducible Treg cells that lack the expression of neuropilin-1. In addition, Gal-8 treatment blunted production of inflammatory cytokines by retinal T helper type (TH) 1 and TH17 cells. The effect of Gal-8 on T cell differentiation and/or function was specific for tissues undergoing an active immune response, as Gal-8 treatment had no effect on T cell populations in the spleen. Given the need for rational therapies for managing human uveitis, Gal-8 emerges as an attractive therapeutic candidate not only for treating retinal autoimmune diseases, but also for other TH1- and TH17-mediated inflammatory disorders.
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