BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Existing data on the spatiotemporal expression patterns of a variety of galectins in murine atherosclerosis are limited. We investigated the expression levels of galectins, and their in vivo spatiotemporal expression patterns and statin responsiveness in the inflamed atherosclerotic plaques of apolipoprotein E (apoE)-/- mice. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Galectins expression patterns in aortic atherosclerotic plaques and serum galectin-3 levels were investigated in 26-week-old apoE-/- (n=6) and C57BL/6 mice (n=9). To investigate the spatial and temporal patterns of galectin-1 and galectin-3 in plaques, high-cholesterol diet-fed 26-week-old (n=12) and 36-week-old apoE-/- mice (n=6) were sacrificed and their aortas were examined for galectins' expression using immunoblot analysis and immunohistochemical stain. 36-week-old apoE-/- mice were treated with atorvastatin (n=3, 0.57 mg/kg/day) for the evaluation of its effect on aortic galectins' expression. RESULTS: Immunoblot analyses showed that galectin-1 and galectin-3 were the predominant galectins expressed in murine atherosclerosis. The serum galectin-3 level was significantly higher in apoE-/- mice (p<0.001). While galectin-1 was weakly expressed in both intimal plaques and the media of atherosclerotic aortas, galectin-3 was heavily and exclusively accumulated in intimal plaques. Galectin-3 distribution was colocalized with plaque macrophages' distribution (r=0.66). As the degree of plaque extent and inflammation increased, the intraplaque galectin-3 expression levels proportionally elevated (p<0.01 vs. baseline), whereas galectin-1 expression had not elevated (p=0.14 vs. baseline). Atorvastatin treatment markedly reduced intraplaque galectin-3 and macrophage signals (p<0.001 vs. baseline), whereas it failed to reduce galectin-1 expression in the aortas. CONCLUSION: Galectin-3 is the predominant gal and is colocalized with macrophages within atherosclerotic plaques. Intraplaque galectin-3 expression reflects the degree of plaque inflammation.