We studied the role of galectin-3 (Gal3) in gastric infection by Helicobacter pylori We first demonstrated that Gal3 was selectively expressed by gastric surface epithelial cells and abundantly secreted into the surface mucus layer. We next inoculated H. pylori Sydney strain 1 into wild-type (WT) and Gal3-deficient mice using a stomach tube. At 2 weeks postinoculation, the bacterial cells were mostly trapped within the surface mucus layer in WT mice. In sharp contrast, they infiltrated deep into the gastric glands in Gal3-deficient mice. Bacterial loads in the gastric tissues were also much higher in Gal3-deficient mice than in WT mice. At 6 months postinoculation,H. pylori had successfully colonized within the gastric glands of both WT and Gal3-deficient mice, although the bacterial loads were still higher in the latter. Furthermore, large lymphoid clusters mostly consisting of B cells were frequently observed in the gastric submucosa of Gal3-deficient mice.In vitro, peritoneal macrophages from Gal3-deficient mice were inefficient in killing engulfed H. pylori Furthermore, recombinant Gal3 not only induced rapid aggregation of H. pylori but also exerted a potent bactericidal effect on H. pylori as revealed by propidium iodide uptake and a morphological shift from spiral to coccoid form. However, a minor fraction of bacterial cells, probably transient phase variants of Gal3-binding sugar moieties, escaped killing by Gal3. Collectively, our data demonstrate that Gal3 plays an important role in innate immunity to infection and colonization of H. pylori.