American journal of physiology. Cell physiology

CD44 variant isoforms expressed by breast cancer cells are functional E-selectin ligands under flow conditions.

PMID 25339657


Adhesion of circulating tumor cells to vascular endothelium is mediated by specialized molecules that are functional under shear forces exerted by hematogenous flow. Endothelial E-selectin binding to glycoforms of CD44 mediates shear-resistant cell adhesion in numerous physiological and pathological conditions. However, this pathway is poorly understood in breast cancer and is the focus of the present investigation. All breast cancer cell lines used in this study strongly expressed CD44. In particular, BT-20 cells expressed CD44s and multiple CD44v isoforms, whereas MDA-MB-231 cells predominantly expressed CD44s but weakly expressed CD44v isoforms. CD44 expressed by BT-20, but not MDA-MB-231, cells possessed E-selectin ligand activity as detected by Western blotting and antigen capture assays. Importantly, CD44 expressed by intact BT-20 cells were functional E-selectin ligands, regulating cell rolling and adhesion under physiological flow conditions, as found by shRNA-targeted silencing of CD44. Antigen capture assays strongly suggest greater shear-resistant E-selectin ligand activity of BT-20 cell CD44v isoforms than CD44s. Surprisingly, CD44 was not recognized by the HECA-452 MAb, which detects sialofucosylated epitopes traditionally expressed by selectin ligands, suggesting that BT-20 cells express a novel glycoform of CD44v as an E-selectin ligand. The activity of this glycoform was predominantly attributed to N-linked glycans. Furthermore, expression of CD44v as an E-selectin ligand correlated with high levels of fucosyltransferase-3 and -6 and epithelial, rather than mesenchymal, cell phenotype. Together, these data demonstrate that expression of CD44 as a functional E-selectin ligand may be important in breast cancer metastasis.