Galactose-binding proteins characterize an important subgroup of sugar-binding proteins that are involved in a variety of biological processes. Structural studies have shown that the Gal-specific proteins encompass a diverse range of primary and tertiary structures. The binding sites for galactose also seem to vary in different protein-galactose complexes. No common binding site features that are shared by the Gal-specific proteins to achieve ligand specificity are so far known. With the assumption that common recognition principles will exist for common substrate recognition, the present study was undertaken to identify and characterize any unique galactose-binding site signature by analyzing the three-dimensional (3D) structures of 18 protein-galactose complexes. These proteins belong to 7 nonhomologous families; thus, there is no sequence or structural similarity across the families. Within each family, the binding site residues and their relative distances were well conserved, but there were no similarities across families. A novel, yet simple, approach was adopted to characterize the binding site residues by representing their relative spatial dispositions in polar coordinates. A combination of the deduced geometrical features with the structural characteristics, such as solvent accessibility and secondary structure type, furnished a potential galactose-binding site signature. The signature was evaluated by incorporation into the program COTRAN to search for potential galactose-binding sites in proteins that share the same fold as the known galactose-binding proteins. COTRAN is able to detect galactose-binding sites with a very high specificity and sensitivity. The deduced galactose-binding site signature is strongly validated and can be used to search for galactose-binding sites in proteins. PROSITE-type signature sequences have also been inferred for galectin and C-type animal lectin-like fold families of Gal-binding proteins.