CD44 is a type I transmembrane protein and member of the cartilage link protein family. It is involved in cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions and signal transduction. Several CD44 ligands have been identified. CD44 is a major cell surface receptor for hyaluronan, a component of the extracellular matrix. It is implicated in diseases such as cancer and inflammation and therefore intensely studied. A characteristic feature of CD44 is the occurrence of many isoforms that are expressed in a cell-specific manner and differentially glycosylated. Although a number of CD44 isoforms have been characterized, the structural diversity of CD44 makes it often challenging to study (isoform-specific) CD44-ligand interactions at the molecular level of detail. The structural organization and ligand binding characteristics of CD44 are focal points of this review. On the basis of recent structural and mutagenesis studies, details of the CD44-hyaluronan interaction are beginning to be understood. Proteins 2000;39:103-111.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.