A healthy placenta has long been acknowledged during gestation as a keystone of fetal development, and nearly all pregnancy complications have been linked to improper development of the placental vasculature. Restriction of placental blood flow has major consequences for both fetus and mother during gestation. Increased vascular resistance and reduced uterine blood flow are associated with intrauterine growth restriction, and are predictors of high-risk pregnancies. On the maternal side, the demand for increased blood flow in an improperly formed placenta has dangerous consequences for maternal health, leading to pregnancy diseases such as preeclampsia. The galectin (gal) family, defined by a canonical carbohydrate recognition domain (CRD) of approximately 130 amino acids with specificity for ?-galactosides, represents the most widely expressed class of lectins in all organisms. Galectin family members have been shown to exert several roles in the context of reproduction. They contribute to placentation, maternal immune regulation and facilitate angiogenesis encompassing decidualization and placenta formation during pregnancy. This lecture will summarize current knowledge on galectins as regulators of pregnancy and discuss their implication in pregnancy disorders.
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