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Am J Pathol. 2000 Nov;157(5):1563-73.

Expression of c-Met and heparan-sulfate proteoglycan forms of CD44 in colorectal cancer.

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Department of Pathology, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


In colorectal cancer patients, prognosis is not determined by the primary tumor but by the formation of distant metastases. Molecules that have been implicated in the metastatic process are the proto-oncogene product c-Met and CD44 glycoproteins. Recently, we obtained evidence for functional collaboration between these two molecules: CD44 isoforms decorated with heparan sulfate chains (CD44-HS) can bind the c-Met ligand, the growth and motility factor hepatocyte growth factor/scatter factor (HGF/SF). This interaction strongly promotes signaling through the receptor tyrosine kinase c-Met. In the present study, we explored the expression of CD44-HS, c-Met, and HGF/SF in the normal human colon mucosa, and in colorectal adenomas and carcinomas, as well as their interaction in colorectal cancer cell lines. Compared to the normal colon, CD44v3 isoforms, which contain a site for HS attachment, and c-Met, were both overexpressed on the neoplastic epithelium of colorectal adenomas and on most carcinomas. Likewise, HGF/SF was expressed at increased levels in tumor tissue. On all tested colorectal cancer cell lines CD44v3 and c-Met were co-expressed. As was shown by immunoprecipitation and Western blotting, CD44 on these cells lines was decorated with HS. Interaction with HS moieties on colorectal carcinoma (HT29) cells promoted HGF/SF-induced activation of c-Met and of the Ras-MAP kinase pathway. Interestingly, survival analysis showed that CD44-HS expression predicts unfavorable prognosis in patients with invasive colorectal carcinomas. Taken together, our findings indicate that CD44-HS, c-Met, and HGF/SF are simultaneously overexpressed in colorectal cancer and that HS moieties promote c-Met signaling in colon carcinoma cells. These observations suggest that collaboration between CD44-HS and the c-Met signaling pathway may play an important role in colorectal tumorigenesis.

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