Placental galectins are key players in regulating the maternal adaptive immune response

Andrea Balogh, Eszter Toth, Roberto Romero, Katalin Parej, Diana Csala, Nikolett L. Szenasi, Istvan Hajdu, Kata Juhasz, Arpad F. Kovacs, Hamutal Meiri, Petronella Hupuczi, Adi L. Tarca, Sonia S. Hassan, Offer Erez, Peter Zavodszky, Janos Matko, Zoltan Papp, Simona W. Rossi, Sinuhe Hahn, Eva PallingerNandor Gabor Than

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Galectins are potent immunomodulators that regulate maternal immune responses in pregnancy and prevent the rejection of the semi-allogeneic fetus that also occurs in miscarriages. We previously identified a gene cluster on Chromosome 19 that expresses a subfamily of galectins, including galectin-13 (Gal-13) and galectin-14 (Gal-14), which emerged in anthropoid primates. These galectins are expressed only by the placenta and induce the apoptosis of activated T lymphocytes, possibly contributing to a shifted maternal immune balance in pregnancy. The placental expression of Gal-13 and Gal-14 is decreased in preeclampsia, a life-threatening obstetrical syndrome partly attributed to maternal anti-fetal rejection. This study is aimed at revealing the effects of Gal-13 and Gal-14 on T cell functions and comparing the expression of these galectins in placentas from healthy pregnancies and miscarriages. First-trimester placentas were collected from miscarriages and elective termination of pregnancies, tissue microarrays were constructed, and then the expression of Gal-13 and Gal-14 was analyzed by immunohistochemistry and immunoscoring. Recombinant Gal-13 and Gal-14 were expressed and purified, and their effects were investigated on primary peripheral blood T cells. The binding of Gal-13 and Gal-14 to T cells and the effects of these galectins on apoptosis, activation marker (CD25, CD71, CD95, HLA-DR) expression and cytokine (IL-1β, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, IFNγ) production of T cells were examined by flow cytometry. Gal-13 and Gal-14 are primarily expressed by the syncytiotrophoblast at the maternal-fetal interface in the first trimester, and their placental expression is decreased in miscarriages compared to first-trimester controls. Recombinant Gal-13 and Gal-14 bind to T cells in a population- and activation-dependent manner. Gal-13 and Gal-14 induce apoptosis of Th and Tc cell populations, regardless of their activation status. Out of the investigated activation markers, Gal-14 decreases the cell surface expression of CD71, Gal-13 increases the expression of CD25, and both galectins increase the expression of CD95 on T cells. Non-activated T cells produce larger amounts of IL-8 in the presence of Gal-13 or Gal-14. In conclusion, these results show that Gal-13 and Gal-14 already provide an immunoprivileged environment at the maternal-fetal interface during early pregnancy, and their reduced expression is related to miscarriages.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1240
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Issue numberJUN
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Angiogenesis
  • Glycomics
  • Immune privilege
  • PP13
  • Trophoblast differentiation
  • Trophoblast invasion


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