Astrogliosis occurs after brain ischemia, and excessive astrogliosis can devastate the neuronal recovery. Previous reports show that galectin-1 (Gal-1) regulates proliferation of several cell types and plays an important role after nervous system injuries. Here, we found that expression of Gal-1 was remarkably up-regulated in activated astrocytes around ischemic infarct. Furthermore, under ischemic conditions either in vitro or in vivo, Gal-1 was found to inhibit the proliferation of astrocytes in a dose-dependent manner, attenuate astrogliosis and down-regulate the astrogliosis associated expression of nitric oxide synthase and interleukin-1β after the ischemia. All these changes were blocked by lactose, suggesting a lectin dependent manner of Gal-1's function. Moreover, 7-day Gal-1 treatment reduced apoptosis of neurons, decreased brain infarction volume and improved neurological function induced by the ischemia. Together, these findings indicate that through reducing astrogliosis related damages, Gal-1 is a potential therapeutical target for attenuating neuronal damage and promoting recovery of brain ischemia. © 2010 The Authors. Journal of Neurochemistry © 2010 International Society for Neurochemistry.