Galectin-3, well characterized as a glycan binding protein, has been identified as a putative RNA binding protein, possibly through participation in pre-mRNA maturation through interactions with splicosomes. Given recent developments with cell surface RNA biology, the putative dual-function nature of galectin-3 evokes a possible non-classical connection between glycobiology and RNA biology. However, with limited functional evidence of a direct RNA interaction, many molecular-level observations rely on affinity reagents and lack appropriate genetic controls. Thus, evidence of a direct interaction remains elusive. We demonstrate that antibodies raised to endogenous human galectin-3 can isolate RNA-protein crosslinks, but this activity remains insensitive to LGALS3 knock-out. Proteomic characterization of anti-galectin-3 IPs revealed enrichment of galectin-3, but high abundance of hnRNPA2B1, an abundant, well-characterized RNA-binding protein with weak homology to the N-terminal domain of galectin-3, in the isolate. Genetic ablation of HNRNPA2B1, but not LGALS3, eliminates the ability of the anti-galectin-3 antibodies to isolate RNA-protein crosslinks, implying either an indirect interaction or cross-reactivity. To address this, we introduced an epitope tag to the endogenous C-terminal locus of LGALS3. Isolation of the tagged galectin-3 failed to reveal any RNA-protein crosslinks. This result suggests that the galectin-3 does not directly interact with RNA and may be misidentified as an RNA-binding protein, at least in HeLa where the putative RNA associations were first identified. We encourage further investigation of this phenomenon employ gene deletions and, when possible, endogenous epitope tags to achieve the specificity required to evaluate potential interactions.
© The Author(s) 2023. Published by Oxford University Press.

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Ryan Flynn’s laboratory is focused on the exploration and discovery of how biopolymers like RNA and glycans work together to control cellular processes in the context of human disease.

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