Different members of the galectin family may have inhibitory or stimulatory roles in controlling immune responses and regulating inflammatory reactions in autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA). A hypothetical model of a cross talk between galectin-1 and galectin-3 has been established in the circumstance of rheumatoid joints. As galectin-3 is a positive regulator and galectin-1 is a negative regulator of inflammation and autoimmune responses, in this study we evaluated the effects of local knockdown of galectin-3 or overexpression of galectin-1 on ameliorating collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) in rats. Lentiviral vectors encoding galectin-3 small hairpin RNA (shRNA) and galectin-1, as well as two control vectors expressing luciferase shRNA and green fluorescent protein, were individually injected intra-articularly into the ankle joints of rats with CIA, and their treatment responses were monitored by measuring the clinical, radiological and histological changes. Our results show that both knockdown of galectin-3 and overexpression of galectin-1 induced higher percentages of antigen-induced T-cell death in the lymph node cells from arthritic rats. Furthermore, these treatments significantly reduced articular index scores, radiographic scores and histological scores, accompanied with decreased T-cell infiltrates and reduced microvessel density in the ankle joints. Our findings implicate galectin-3 and galectin-1 as potential therapeutic targets for the treatment of RA.
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