Galectins are a unique family of lectins bearing one or two carbohydrate recognition domains (CRDs) that have the ability to bind molecules with β-galactoside-containing carbohydrates. It has been shown that galectins regulate not only cell growth and differentiation but also immune responses, as well as inflammation. Galectin-9, a tandem repeat type of galectin, was originally identified as a chemotactic factor for eosinophils, and is also involved in the regulatory process of inflammation. Here, we examined the involvement of galectin-9 and its receptor, T-cell immunoglobulin- and mucin-domain-containing molecule 3 (Tim-3), in the control of osteoclastogenesis and inflammatory bone destruction. Expression of Tim-3 was detected in osteoclasts and its mononuclear precursors in vivo and in vitro. Galectin-9 markedly inhibited osteoclastogenesis as evaluated in osteoclast precursor cell line RAW-D cells and primary bone marrow cells of mice and rats. The inhibitory effects of galectin-9 on osteoclastogenesis was negated by the addition of β-lactose, an antagonist for galectin binding, suggesting that the inhibitory effect of galectin-9 was mediated through CRD. When galectin-9 was injected into rats with adjuvant-induced arthritis, marked suppression of bone destruction was observed. Inflammatory bone destruction could be efficiently ameliorated by controlling the Tim-3/galectin-9 system in rheumatoid arthritis.
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