Concise Review: Emerging Role of CD44 in Cancer Stem Cells: A Promising Biomarker and Therapeutic Target.
ABSTRACT: The reception and integration of the plethora of signals a cell receives from its microenvironment determines the cell's fate. CD44 functions as a receptor for hyaluronan and many other extracellular matrix components, as well as a cofactor for growth factors and cytokines, and thus, CD44 is a signaling platform that integrates cellular microenvironmental cues with growth factor and cytokine signals and transduces signals to membrane-associated cytoskeletal proteins or to the nucleus to regulate a variety of gene expression levels related to cell-matrix adhesion, cell migration, proliferation, differentiation, and survival. Accumulating evidence indicates that CD44, especially CD44v isoforms, are cancer stem cell (CSC) markers and critical players in regulating the properties of CSCs, including self-renewal, tumor initiation, metastasis, and chemoradioresistance. Furthermore, there is ample evidence that CD44, especially CD44v isoforms, are valuable prognostic markers in various types of tumors. Therefore, therapies that target CD44 may destroy the CSC population, and this holds great promise for the cure of life-threatening cancers. However, many challenges remain to determining how best to use CD44 as a biomarker and therapeutic target. Here we summarize the current findings concerning the critical role of CD44/CD44v in the regulation of cancer stemness and the research status of CD44/CD44v as biomarkers and therapeutic targets in cancer. We also discuss the current challenges and future directions that may lead to the best use of CD44/CD44v for clinical applications.Mounting evidence indicates that cancer stem cells (CSCs) are mainly responsible for cancer aggressiveness, drug resistance, and tumor relapse. CD44, especially CD44v isoforms, have been identified as CSC surface markers for isolating and enriching CSCs in different types of cancers. The current findings concerning the critical role of CD44/CD44v in regulation of cancer stemness and the research status of CD44/CD44v as biomarkers and therapeutic targets in cancer are summarized. The current challenges and future directions that may lead to best use of CD44/CD44v for clinical applications are also discussed.
Project description:Although changes in alternative splicing have been observed in cancer, their functional contributions still remain largely unclear. Here we report that splice isoforms of the cancer stem cell (CSC) marker CD44 exhibit strikingly opposite functions in breast cancer. Bioinformatic annotation in patient breast cancer in The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) database reveals that the CD44 standard splice isoform (CD44s) positively associates with the CSC gene signatures, whereas the CD44 variant splice isoforms (CD44v) exhibit an inverse association. We show that CD44s is the predominant isoform expressed in breast CSCs. Elimination of the CD44s isoform impairs CSC traits. Conversely, manipulating the splicing regulator ESRP1 to shift alternative splicing from CD44v to CD44s leads to an induction of CSC properties. We further demonstrate that CD44s activates the PDGFR?/Stat3 cascade to promote CSC traits. These results reveal CD44 isoform specificity in CSC and non-CSC states and suggest that alternative splicing provides functional gene versatility that is essential for distinct cancer cell states and thus cancer phenotypes.
Project description:Cancer stem-like cells (CSCs) are a subpopulation of cancer cells responsible for tumor growth, and recent evidence suggests that CSCs also contribute to cancer metastasis. However, the heterogeneity of CSCs in metastasis capacities is still unclear in breast cancer. Here we show that among the CD24-/CD44+ breast CSCs, a subset expressing the variant isoform of CD44 (CD44v) displays significantly higher capacity of lung metastasis than that expressing the standard CD44 isoform CD44s. Increasing or reducing the CD44v/CD44s ratio of breast cancer cells by regulating the expression of epithelial splicing regulatory protein 1 (ESRP1) leads to promotion or suppression of lung metastasis without influencing cancer cell stemness. Directly suppressing CD44v expression significantly alleviates the metastasis burden in lungs. Mechanically, CD44v, but not CD44s, responds to osteopontin (OPN) in the lung environment to enhance cancer cell invasiveness and promote lung metastasis. In clinical samples expression of ESRP1 and CD44v, rather than CD44s or total CD44, positively correlates with distant metastasis. Overall, our data identify a subset of metastatic breast CSCs characterized by CD44v expression, and suggest that CD44v and ESRP1 might be better prognosis markers and therapeutic targets for breast cancer metastasis.
Project description:Background: Preliminary studies have identified cancer stem cells (CSCs) in various cancers and there are several ongoing clinical studies targeting these cells. CD44 (standard or variant isoforms) and/or aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) expression is the most commonly used markers for the identification of CSCs. The goal of the current study was to examine the ability of CD44v, either alone or in combination with ALDH, to identify CSCs within human lung cancer cells lines. Methods: We examined several lung adenocarcinoma cell lines for the ability of CD44v and/or ALDH expression to enrich for cells with CSC characteristics such as in vitro differential proliferation rate, chemotherapeutic-resistance, tumorsphere formation, and in vivo tumorigenicity. We also compared their in vivo secondary tumor formation, and histological characteristics of their xenograft tumors, and examined their expression of PD-L1, EGFR, xCT, and reactive oxygen species (ROS). Results: Both CD44vhigh/ALDHhigh and CD44vhigh/ALDHlow cells were enriched in cells with CSC characteristics, with the CD44vhigh/ALDHlow cells being more proliferative and more resistant to chemotherapeutics, whereas CD44vhigh/ALDHhigh cells were more efficient in forming tumorspheres in vitro, in making primary xenograft tumors, and in propagating secondary tumors in vivo. Applying stricter sorting gates to select for cells with the highest CD44v/ALDH expression caused the CD44vhigh/ALDHlow cells to lose their high proliferation rates and chemotherapeutic resistance ability, but enriched for the tumorsphere-forming cells among the CD44vhigh/ALDHhigh and CD44vhigh/ALDHlow cells. CD44vhigh expression was associated with PD-L1 and xCT expression in both H1650 and HCC827 cells. This association was not modified by ALDH expression in the H1650 cell line. However, in the HCC827 cell line, ALDH expression was negatively associated with PD-L1 and positively associated with xCT expression. Conclusion: Lung adenocarcinoma cells with high CD44v expression are enriched for CSCs. Addition of ALDH as an enrichment marker bestowed some CSCs characteristics to CD44vhigh/ALDHlow cells and others to CD44vhigh/ALDHhigh cells. We propose that lung adenocarcinoma contains different CSCs, each of them endowed with different CSC characteristics.
Project description:Breast cancer is a highly frequent and lethal malignancy which metastasis and relapse frequently associates with the existence of breast cancer stem cells (CSCs). CSCs are undifferentiated, aggressive and highly resistant to therapy, with traits modulated by microenvironmental cells and the extracellular matrix (ECM), a biologically complex and dynamic structure composed mainly by type I collagen (Col-I). Col-I enrichment in the tumor-associated ECM leads to microenvironment stiffness and higher tumor aggressiveness and metastatic potential. While Col-I is also known to induce tumor stemness, it is unknown if such effect is dependent of Col-I density. To answer this question, we evaluated the stemness phenotype of MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 human breast cancer cells cultured within gels of varying Col-I densities. High Col-I density increased CD44+CD24- breast cancer stem cell (BCSC) immunophenotype but failed to potentiate Col-I fiber alignment, cell self-renewal and clonogenicity in MDA-MB-231 cells. In MCF-7 cells, high Col-I density decreased total levels of variant CD44 (CD44v). Common to both cell types, high Col-I density induced neither markers related to CSC nor those related with mechanically-induced cell response. We conclude that high Col-I density per se is not sufficient to fully develop the BCSC phenotype.
Project description:Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the leading causes of cancer death worldwide. Cancer stem cells (CSCs) have attracted attention as a novel therapeutic target for cancer because they play important roles in the development and aggravation of cancer. CD44 is expressed as a standard isoform (CD44s) and several variant isoforms. CD44v is a major isoform expressed on CSCs of a variety of tumors and has been extensively studied. However, HCC tissues dominantly express CD44s, whose function in CSCs remains unclear. In the present study, we investigated the roles of CD44s in CSCs of HCC. Knock-out of the CD44 gene in HuH7 HCC cells on which only CD44s is expressed resulted in decreased spheroid formation and increased drug sensitivity. The expression of CSC marker genes, including CD133 and EpCAM, was significantly downregulated in the spheroids of CD44-deficient cells compared with those in the spheroids of HuH7 cells. In addition, CD44 deficiency impaired antioxidant capacity, concomitant with downregulation of glutathione peroxidase 1 (GPX1) and thioredoxin. Because GPX1 uses the reduced form of glutathione (GSH) to regenerate oxidized cellular components, GSH levels were significantly increased in the CD44-deficient cells. We also found that NOTCH3 and its target genes were downregulated in the spheroids of CD44-deficient cells. NOTCH3 expression in HCC tissues was significantly increased compared with that in adjacent nontumor liver tissues and was correlated with CD44 expression. These results suggest that CD44s is involved in maintenance of CSCs in a HCC cell line, possibly through the NOTCH3 signaling pathway.
Project description:Cell surface proteins such as CD44 and CD24 are used to distinguish cancer stem cells (CSCs) from the bulk-tumor population. However, the molecular functionalities of CD24 and CD44, and how these two molecules coordinate in CSCs remain poorly understood. We found that nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) cells with high expression of CD44 and CD24 proteins presented with pronounced CSC properties. Accordingly, a subpopulation of NPC cells with co-expression of CD44 and CD24 were specially enriched in high-stage clinical samples. Furthermore, ectopically expressing the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) regulator Twist was able to upregulate the stemness factors, and vice versa. This indicates a reciprocal regulation of stemness and EMT. Intriguingly, we found that this reciprocal regulation was differentially orchestrated by CD44 and CD24, and only simultaneous silencing the expression of CD44 and CD24 led to a broad-spectrum suppression of CSC properties. Oppositely, overexpression of CD44 and CD24 induced the reprogramming of parental NPC cells into CSCs through STAT3 activation, which could be blunted by STAT3 inhibition, indicating that CD44 and CD24 collaboratively drive the reprogramming of NPC cells through STAT3-mediated stemness and EMT activation. Consequently, targeting of the CD44/CD24/STAT3 axis may provide a potential therapeutic paradigm for the treatment of NPC through repressing CSC activities.
Project description:Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are a subpopulation of cancer cells that are capable of self-renewal, proliferation, differentiation, plastic adaptation, and immune regulation, thereby mediating tumorigenesis, metastasis, and therapy resistance. CSCs are associated with cancer progression and clinical outcome in cancer patients. Successful targeting of CSCs will therefore be necessary to eradicate and cure cancer. Functional regulators of stem cell (stemness) signaling pathways in human cancers have brought new opportunities to target CSCs and reframe cancer-targeting strategies in clinical settings. However, challenges remain due to a lack of complete understanding of CSC plasticity/heterogeneity and the limited efficacy of individual stemness inhibitors in cancer treatment. In this article we review CSC signaling pathways and the current state of CSC-targeting therapeutics in combinatory treatments in clinical trials.
Project description:Understanding the mechanism by which cancer cells enhance stemness facilitates cancer therapies. Here, we revealed that a stem cell transcription factor, SALL4, functions to enhance stemness in basal-like breast cancer cells. We used shRNA-mediated knockdown and gene overexpression systems to analyze gene functions. To evaluate stemness, we performed a sphere formation assay. In SALL4 knockdown cells, the sphere formation ability was reduced, indicating that SALL4 enhances stemness. CD44 is a membrane protein and is known as a stemness factor in cancer. CD44 splicing variants are involved in cancer stemness. We discovered that SALL4 modulates CD44 alternative splicing through the upregulation of KHDRBS3, a splicing factor for CD44. We cloned the KHDRBS3-regulated CD44 splicing isoform (CD44v), which lacks exons 8 and 9. CD44v overexpression prevented a reduction in the sphere formation ability by KHDRBS3 knockdown, indicating that CD44v is positively involved in cancer stemness. In addition, CD44v enhanced anoikis resistance under the control of the SALL4 - KHDRBS3 network. Basal-like breast cancer is an aggressive subtype among breast cancers, and there is no effective therapy so far. Our findings provide molecular targets for basal-like breast cancer therapy. In the future, this study may contribute to the establishment of drugs targeting cancer stemness.
Project description:Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is the most aggressive subtype of breast cancer, in which the higher frequency of cancer stem cells (CSCs) correlates with the poor clinical outcome. An aberrant activation of CDK5 is found to associate with TNBC progression closely. CDK5 mediates PPAR? phosphorylation at its Ser 273, which induces CD44 isoform switching from CD44s to CD44v, resulting in an increase of stemness of TNBC cells. Blocking CDK5/pho-PPAR? significantly reduces CD44v+ BCSCs population in tumor tissues, thus abrogating metastatic progression in TNBC mouse model. Strikingly, diminishing stemness transformation reverses immunosuppressive microenvironment and enhances anti-PD-1 therapeutic efficacy on TNBC. Mechanistically, CDK5 switches the E3 ubiquitin ligase activity of PPAR? and directly protects ESRP1 from a ubiquitin-dependent proteolysis. This finding firstly indicates that CDK5 blockade can be a potent strategy to diminish stemness transformation and increase the response to PD-1 blockade in TNBC therapy.
Project description:CD44, a non-kinase transmembrane glycoprotein, is overexpressed in several cell types including cancer stem cells and frequently shows alternative spliced variants that are thought to play a role in cancer development and progression. Hyaluronan, the main ligand for CD44, binds to and activates CD44 resulting in activation of cell signaling pathways that induces cell proliferation, increases cell survival, modulates cytoskeletal changes, and enhances cellular motility. The different functional roles of CD44 standard (CD44s) and specific CD44 variant (CD44v) isoforms are not fully understood. CD44v contain additional peptide motifs that can interact with and sequester growth factors and cytokines at the cell surface thereby functioning as coreceptors to facilitate cell signaling. Moreover, CD44v were expressed in metastasized tumors, whereas switching between CD44v and CD44s may play a role in regulating epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) and in the adaptive plasticity of cancer cells. Here, we review current data on the structural and functional properties of CD44, the known roles for CD44 in tumorigencity, the regulation of CD44 expression, and the potential for targeting CD44 for cancer therapy.