CD44 is a multifunctional cell receptor that conveys a cancer phenotype, regulates macrophage inflammatory gene expression and vascular gene activation in proatherogenic environments, and is also a marker of many cancer stem cells. CD44 undergoes sequential proteolytic cleavages that produce an intracytoplasmic domain called CD44-ICD. However, the role of CD44-ICD in cell function is unknown. We take a major step toward the elucidation of the CD44-ICD function by using a CD44-ICD-specific antibody, a modification of a ChIP assay to detect small molecules, and extensive computational analysis. We show that CD44-ICD translocates into the nucleus, where it then binds to a novel DNA consensus sequence in the promoter region of the MMP-9 gene to regulate its expression. We also show that the expression of many other genes that contain this novel response element in their promoters is up- or down-regulated by CD44-ICD. Furthermore, hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (Hif1α)-responsive genes also have the CD44-ICD consensus sequence and respond to CD44-ICD induction under normoxic conditions and therefore independent of Hif1αexpression. Additionally, CD44-ICD early responsive genes encode for critical enzymes in the glycolytic pathway, revealing how CD44 could be a gatekeeper of the Warburg effect (aerobic glycolysis) in cancer cells and possibly cancer stem cells. The link of CD44 to metabolism is novel and opens a new area of research not previously considered, particularly in the study of obesity and cancer. In summary, our results finally give a function to the CD44-ICD and will accelerate the study of the regulation of many CD44-dependent genes.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology