Liquid-liquid phase separation and extracellular multivalent interactions in the tale of galectin-3

Yi Ping Chiu, Yung Chen Sun, De Chen Qiu, Yu Hao Lin, Yin Quan Chen, Jean Cheng Kuo, Jie rong Huang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) explains many intracellular activities, but its role in extracellular functions has not been studied to the same extent. Here we report how LLPS mediates the extracellular function of galectin-3, the only monomeric member of the galectin family. The mechanism through which galectin-3 agglutinates (acting as a “bridge” to aggregate glycosylated molecules) is largely unknown. Our data show that its N-terminal domain (NTD) undergoes LLPS driven by interactions between its aromatic residues (two tryptophans and 10 tyrosines). Our lipopolysaccharide (LPS) micelle model shows that the NTDs form multiple weak interactions to other galectin-3 and then aggregate LPS micelles. Aggregation is reversed when interactions between the LPS and the carbohydrate recognition domains are blocked by lactose. The proposed mechanism explains many of galectin-3’s functions and suggests that the aromatic residues in the NTD are interesting drug design targets.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1229
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2020


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