Concomitant expressions of glycan-binding proteins and their bound glycans regulate many pathophysiologic processes, but this issue has not been addressed in liver fibrosis. Activation of hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) is a rate-limiting step in liver fibrosis and is an important target for liver fibrosis therapy. We previously reported that galectin (Gal)-1, a β-galactoside-binding protein, regulates myofibroblast homeostasis in oral carcinoma and wound healing, but the role of Gal-1 in HSC migration and activation is unclear. Herein, we report that Gal-1 and its bound glycans were highly expressed in fibrotic livers and activated HSCs. The cell-surface glycome of activated HSCs facilitated Gal-1 binding, which upon recognition of the N-glycans on neuropilin (NRP)-1, activated platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF)-and transforming growth factor (TGF)-β-like signals to promote HSC migration and activation. In addition, blocking endogenous Gal-1 expression suppressed PDGF-and TGF-β1-induced signaling, migration, and gene expression in HSCs. Methionine and choline-deficient diet (MCD)-induced collagen deposition and HSC activation were attenuated in Gal-1-null mice compared to wild-Type mice. In summary, we concluded that glycosylation-dependent Gal-1/NRP-1 interactions activate TGF-β and PDGF-like signaling to promote the migration and activation of HSCs. Therefore, targeting Gal-1/NRP-1 interactions could be developed into liver fibrosis therapy.
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