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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Heparan sulfate-modified CD44 promotes hepatocyte growth factor/scatter factor- induced signal transduction through the receptor tyrosine kinase c-Met.

CD44 has been implicated in tumor progression and metastasis, but the mechanism(s) involved is as yet poorly understood. Recent studies have shown that CD44 isoforms containing the alternatively spliced exon v3 carry heparan sulfate side chains and are able to bind heparin-binding growth factors. In the present study, we have explored the possibility of a physical and functional interaction between CD44 and hepatocyte growth factor/scatter factor ( HGF/ SF), the ligand of the receptor tyrosine kinase c-Met. The HGF/ SF-c-Met pathway mediates cell growth and motility and has been implicated in tumor invasion and metastasis. We demonstrate that a CD44v3 splice variant efficiently binds HGF/ SF via its heparan sulfate side chain. To address the functional relevance of this interaction, Namalwa Burkitt's lymphoma cells were stably co-transfected with c-Met and either CD44v3 or the isoform CD44s, which lacks heparan sulfate. We show that, as compared with CD44s, CD44v3 promotes: (i) HGF/ SF- induced phosphorylation of c-Met, (ii) phosphorylation of several downstream proteins, and (iii) activation of the MAP kinases ERK1 and -2. By heparitinase treatment and the use of a mutant HGF/ SF with greatly decreased affinity for heparan sulfate, we show that the enhancement of c-Met signal transduction induced by CD44v3 was critically dependent on heparan sulfate moieties. Our results identify heparan sulfate-modified CD44 (CD44-HS) as a functional co-receptor for HGF/ SF which promotes signaling through the receptor tyrosine kinase c-Met, presumably by concentrating and presenting HGF/ SF. As both CD44-HS and c-Met are overexpressed on several types of tumors, we propose that the observed functional collaboration might be instrumental in promoting tumor growth and metastasis.[1]


  1. Heparan sulfate-modified CD44 promotes hepatocyte growth factor/scatter factor-induced signal transduction through the receptor tyrosine kinase c-Met. van der Voort, R., Taher, T.E., Wielenga, V.J., Spaargaren, M., Prevo, R., Smit, L., David, G., Hartmann, G., Gherardi, E., Pals, S.T. J. Biol. Chem. (1999) [Pubmed]
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