Knowledge about carbohydrate recognition domains of galectins, formerly known as S-type animal lectins, is important in understanding their role(s) in cell-cell interactions. Here we report the crystal structure of human galectin-7 (hGal-7), in free form and in the presence of galactose, galactosamine, lactose, and N-acetyl-lactosamine at high resolution. This is the first structure of a galectin determined in both free and carbohydrate- bound forms. The structure shows a fold similar to that of the prototype galectins -1 and -2, but has greater similarity to a related galectin molecule, Gal-10. Even though the carbohydrate-binding residues are conserved, there are significant changes in this pocket due to shortening of a loop structure. The monomeric hGal-7 molecule exists as a dimer in the crystals, but adopts a packing arrangement considerably different from that of Gal-1 and Gal-2, which has implications for carbohydrate recognition.
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