Intelectins (IntL) are Ca2+-dependent secretory glycoproteins that play a role in the innate immune response. The mammalian IntL is also known as lactoferrin receptor (LfR) that is involved in iron metabolism. The objective of this study was to characterize the intelectin genes in both channel catfish and blue catfish, to determine their genomic organization and copy numbers, to determine their patterns of tissue expression, and to establish if they are involved in defense responses of catfish after bacterial infection. Two types of IntL genes have been identified from catfish, and IntL2 was completely sequenced. The genomic structure and organization of IntL2 were similar to those of the mammalian species and of zebrafish and grass carp, but orthologies cannot be established with mammalian IntL genes. The IntL genes are highly conserved through evolution. Sequence analysis also indicated the presence of the fibrinogen-related domain in the catfish IntL genes, suggesting their structural conservations. Phylogenetic analysis suggested the presence of at least two prototypes of IntL genes in teleosts, but only one in mammals. The catfish IntL genes exhibited drastically different patterns of expression as compared to those of the mammalian species, or even with the grass carp gene. The catfish IntL1 gene is widely expressed in various tissues, whereas the channel catfish IntL2 gene was mainly expressed in the liver. While the catfish IntL1 is constitutively expressed, the catfish IntL2 was drastically induced by intraperitoneal injection of Edwardsiella ictaluri and/or iron dextran. Such induction was most dramatic when the fish were treated with both the bacteria and iron dextran. While IntL1 was expressed in all leukocyte cell lines, no expression of IntL2 was detected in any of the leukocyte cell lines, suggesting that the up-regulated channel catfish IntL2 expression after bacterial infection may be a consequence of the initial immune response, and/or a downstream immune response rather than a part of the primary immune responses.