CD44 is a broadly distributed cell surface glycoprotein expressed in different isoforms in various tissues and cell lines. One of two recently characterized human isoforms, CD44H, is a cell surface receptor for hyaluronate, suggesting a role in the regulation of cell-cell and cell-substrate interactions as well as of cell migration. While CD44H has been shown to mediate cell adhesion, direct demonstration that CD44H expression promotes cell motility has been lacking. In this work we show that a human melanoma cell line, stably transfected with CD44H, displays enhanced motility on hyaluronate-coated surfaces while transfectants expressing an isoform that does not bind hyaluronate, CD44E, fail to do so. Migration of CD44H-expressing transfectants is observed to be blocked by a soluble CD44-immunoglobulin fusion protein as well as by anti-CD44 antibody, and to depend on the presence of the cytoplasmic domain of CD44. However, cells expressing CD44H cytoplasmic deletion mutants retain significant binding capacity to hyaluronate-coated substrate. Taken together, our results provide direct evidence that CD44H plays a major role in regulating cell migration on hyaluronate-coated substrate.

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