Galectins are β-galactoside-binding proteins implicated in a myriad of biological functions. Despite their highly conserved carbohydrate binding motifs with essentially identical structures, their affinities for lactose, a common galectin inhibitor, vary significantly. Here, we aimed to examine the molecular basis of differential lactose affinities amongst galectins using solution-based techniques. Consistent dissociation constants of lactose binding were derived from nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, intrinsic tryptophan fluorescence, isothermal titration calorimetry and bio-layer interferometry for human galectin-1 (hGal1), galectin-7 (hGal7), and the N-terminal and C-terminal domains of galectin-8 (hGal8NTD
, respectively). Furthermore, the dissociation rates of lactose binding were extracted from NMR lineshape analyses. Structural mapping of chemical shift perturbations revealed long-range perturbations upon lactose binding for hGal1 and hGal8NTD
. We further demonstrated using the NMR-based hydrogen–deuterium exchange (HDX) that lactose binding increases the exchange rates of residues located on the opposite side of the ligand-binding pocket for hGal1 and hGal8NTD
, indicative of allostery. Additionally, lactose binding induces significant stabilisation of hGal8CTD
across the entire domain. Our results suggested that lactose binding reduced the internal dynamics of hGal8CTD
on a very slow timescale (minutes and slower) at the expense of reduced binding affinity due to the unfavourable loss of conformational entropy.
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