Galectin 15 (LGALS15): a gene uniquely expressed in the uteri of sheep and goats that functions in trophoblast attachment.
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Galectins are a family of secreted animal lectins with biological roles in cell adhesion and migration. In sheep, galectin 15 (LGALS15) is expressed specifically in the endometrial luminal (LE) and superficial glandular (sGE) epithelia of the uterus in concert with blastocyst elongation during the peri-implantation period. The present study examined LGALS15 expression in the uterus of cattle, goats, and pigs. Although the bovine genome contains an LGALS15-like gene, expressed sequence tags encoding LGALS15 mRNA were found only for sheep, and full-length LGALS15 cDNAs were cloned only from endometrial total RNA isolated from pregnant sheep and goats, but not pregnant cattle or pigs. Ovine and caprine LGALS15 were highly homologous at the mRNA (95%) and protein (91%) levels, and all contained a conserved carbohydrate recognition domain and RGD recognition sequence for integrin binding. Endometrial LGALS15 mRNA levels increased after Day 11 of both the estrous cycle and pregnancy, and were considerably increased after Day 15 of pregnancy in goats. In situ hybridization detected abundant LGALS15 mRNA in endometrial LE and sGE of early pregnant goats, but not in cattle or pigs. Immunoreactive LGALS15 protein was present in endometrial epithelia and conceptus trophectoderm of goat uteri and detected within intracellular crystal structures in trophectoderm and LE. Recombinant ovine and caprine LGALS15 proteins elicited a dose-dependent increase in ovine trophectoderm cell attachment in vitro that was comparable to bovine fibronectin. These results support the hypothesis that LGALS15 is uniquely expressed in Caprinae endometria and functions as an attachment factor important for peri-implantation blastocyst elongation.