Scientific reports

Increased expression of surface CD44 in hypoxia-DCs skews helper T cells toward a Th2 polarization.

PMID 26323509


A low partial oxygen pressure (hypoxia) occurs in many pathological environments, such as solid tumors and inflammatory lesions. Understanding the cellular response to hypoxic stress has broad implications for human diseases. As we previously reported, hypoxia significantly altered dendritic cells (DCs) to a DC2 phenotype and promoted a Th2 polarization of naïve T cells with increased IL-4 production. However, the underlying mechanisms still remain largely unknown. In this study, we found the over-expression of surface CD44 in DCs was involved in this process via ligand binding. Further investigation showed hypoxia could reduce the surface expression of membrane type 1 metalloprotease (MT1-MMP) via down-regulating the kinesin-like protein KIF2A, which subsequently alleviated the shedding of CD44 from DCs. Moreover, KIF2A expression was found negatively regulated by HIF-1α in hypoxic microenvironment. These results suggest a previously uncharacterized mechanism by which hypoxia regulates the function of DCs via KIF2A/MT1-MMP/CD44 axis, providing critical information to understand the immune response under hypoxia.