CD44 is a cell surface adhesion molecule for several extracellular matrix components. We previously showed that CD44 expressed in cancer cells is proteolytically cleaved at the ectodomain through membrane-anchored metalloproteases and that CD44 cleavage plays a critical role in cancer cell migration. Therefore, cellular signals that promote the migration and metastatic activity of cancer cells may regulate the CD44 ectodomain cleavage. Here, we demonstrate that the expression of the dominant active mutant of Ha-Ras (Ha-RasVal-12) induces redistribution of CD44 to the newly generated membrane ruffling area and CD44 ectodomain cleavage. The migration assay revealed that the CD44 cleavage contributes to the Ha-RasVal-12-induced migration of NIH3T3 cells on hyaluronate substrate. Treatment with LY294002, an inhibitor for phosphoinositide 3-OH kinase (PI3K), significantly inhibits Ha-RasVal-12-induced CD44 cleavage, whereas that with PD98059, an inhibitor for MEK, does not. The active mutant p110 subunit of PI3K has also been shown to enhance the CD44 cleavage, suggesting that PI3K mediates the Ras-induced CD44 cleavage. Moreover, the expression of dominant negative mutants of Cdc42 and Rac1 inhibits the Ha-RasVal-12-induced CD44 cleavage. These results suggest that Ras > PI3K > Cdc42/Rac1 pathway plays an important role in CD44 cleavage and may provide a novel molecular basis to explain how the activated Ras facilitates cancer cell migration.
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