CD44 is an adhesion molecule that serves as a cell surface receptor for several extracellular matrix components, including hyaluronan (HA). The proteolytic cleavage of CD44 from the cell surface plays a critical role in the migration of tumor cells. Although this cleavage can be induced by certain stimuli such as phorbol ester and anti-CD44 antibodies in vitro, the physiological inducer of CD44 cleavage in vivo is unknown. Here, we demonstrate that HA oligosaccharides of a specific size range induce CD44 cleavage from tumor cells. Fragmented HA containing 6-mers to 14-mers enhanced CD44 cleavage dose-dependently by interacting with CD44, whereas a large polymer HA failed to enhance CD44 cleavage, although it bound to CD44. Examination using uniformly sized HA oligosaccharides revealed that HAs smaller than 36 kDa significantly enhanced CD44 cleavage. In particular, the 6.9-kDa HA (36-mers) not only enhanced CD44 cleavage but also promoted tumor cell motility, which was completely inhibited by an anti-CD44 monoclonal antibody. These results raise the possibility that small HA oligosaccharides, which are known to occur in various tumor tissues, promote tumor invasion by enhancing the tumor cell motility that may be driven by CD44 cleavage.
ASJC Scopus subject areas