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J Biol Chem. 2002 Oct 18;277(42):39703-12. Epub 2002 Jul 26.

Hyaluronan promotes signaling interaction between CD44 and the transforming growth factor beta receptor I in metastatic breast tumor cells.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, and the Endocrine Unit, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, San Francisco, California 94121, USA.


In this study we have examined the interaction between CD44 (a hyaluronan (HA) receptor) and the transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) receptors (a family of serine/threonine kinase membrane receptors) in human metastatic breast tumor cells (MDA-MB-231 cell line). Immunological data indicate that both CD44 and TGF-beta receptors are expressed in MDA-MB-231 cells and that CD44 is physically linked to the TGF-beta receptor I (TGF-betaRI) (and to a lesser extent to the TGF-beta receptor II (TGF-betaRII)) as a complex in vivo. Scatchard plot analyses and in vitro binding experiments show that the cytoplasmic domain of CD44 binds to TGF-betaRI at a single site with high affinity (an apparent dissociation constant (K(d)) of approximately 1.78 nm). These findings indicate that TGF-betaRI contains a CD44-binding site. Furthermore, we have found that the binding of HA to CD44 in MDA-MB-231 cells stimulates TGF-betaRI serine/threonine kinase activity which, in turn, increases Smad2/Smad3 phosphorylation and parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTH-rP) production (well known downstream effector functions of TGF-beta signaling). Most importantly, TGF-betaRI kinase activated by HA phosphorylates CD44, which enhances its binding interaction with the cytoskeletal protein, ankyrin, leading to HA-mediated breast tumor cell migration. Overexpression of TGF-betaRI by transfection of MDA-MB-231 cells with TGF-betaRIcDNA stimulates formation of the CD44.TGF-betaRI complex, the association of ankyrin with membranes, and HA-dependent/CD44-specific breast tumor migration. Taken together, these findings strongly suggest that CD44 interaction with the TGF-betaRI kinase promotes activation of multiple signaling pathways required for ankyrin-membrane interaction, tumor cell migration, and important oncogenic events (e.g. Smad2/Smad3 phosphorylation and PTH-rP production) during HA and TGF-beta-mediated metastatic breast tumor progression.

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