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Blood. 1997 Aug 1;90(3):1150-9.

CD44 is involved in tumor angiogenesis; an activation antigen on human endothelial cells.

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Department of Internal Medicine and Medical Oncology, University Hospital Utrecht, The Netherlands.


CD44 is described to be an activation molecule in a number of different cell types. We investigated the role of CD44 on human endothelial cells (EC) and in tumor angiogenesis. Using flow cytometry we showed that EC from the vasculature of human solid tumors display an enhanced expression of CD44 as compared to EC from normal tissue. This finding was confirmed by immunohistochemical studies on frozen tissue sections. Because tumors are dependent on angiogenesis, the role of angiogenic stimuli in the enhanced CD44 expression was investigated. We found that basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) and vascular endothelial growth factor were able to efficiently upregulate CD44 expression on cultured human EC. The upregulation reached maximal levels after treatment for 3 days with 10 ng/mL bFGF. The physiological impact of this upregulation was shown by the enhanced binding of EC to hyaluronate after pretreatment with bFGF. In a next set of studies that were designed to unravel the regulation of CD44 expression on EC we concluded that CD44 is an activation antigen on human EC since (1) human umbilical vein derived endothelial cells, which in vivo do not express CD44, begin to express CD44 when plated and cultured, (2) CD44 expression is enhanced after subculture of confluent cultures, (3) CD44 is predominantly expressed on the BrdU incorporating subset of cultured EC. The specific expression of CD44 on activated and tumor EC prompted us to study the usefulness of CD44 as an endothelial target for therapy with immunotoxins. In vitro experiments showed that EC are efficiently killed after targeting immunotoxin to CD44.

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