Metastatic invasion is the primary cause of breast cancer mortality, and adhesion receptors, such as CD44, are believed to be critical in this process. Historically, primary breast tumor epithelium has been investigated in isolation from other tissue components, leading to the common interpretation that CD44 and its primary ligand, hyaluronan, promote invasion. Here, we provide in vivo evidence showing CD44 antagonism to breast cancer metastasis. In a mouse model of spontaneously metastasizing breast cancer (MMTV-PyV mT), we found that loss of CD44 promotes metastasis to the lung. Localization studies, in combination with a novel hyaluronan synthase-GFP transgenic mouse, show a restricted pattern of expression for CD44 and hyaluronan. Whereas CD44 is expressed in tumor epithelium, hyaluronan synthase expression is restricted to stromal-associated cells. This distinct CD44 and hyaluronan pattern of distribution suggests a role for epithelial-stromal interaction in CD44 function. To define the relevance of this spatial regulation, we developed an in vitro invasion assay to emulate invasion into the extracellular matrix. Invasion of CD44-positive tumor cells was inhibited in hyaluronan-containing matrices, whereas blocking CD44-hyaluronan association increased invasion. Collectively, these data show that during breast cancer progression, hyaluronan-CD44 dynamics occurring through epithelial-stromal interactions are protective against metastasis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research