Objectives: To investigate whether hyaluronan (HA) and CD44 (hereinafter HA-CD44) promotes head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) chemotherapy resistance and whether HA-CD44 promotes epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR)-mediated oncogenic signaling to alter chemotherapy sensitivity in HNSCC. Hyaluronan, a glycosaminoglycan component of the extracellular matrix, is a ligand for the transmembrane receptor CD44, which acts through multiple signaling pathways to influence cellular behavior. We recently determined that HA-CD44 promotes phospholipase C-mediated calcium signaling and cisplatin resistance in HNSCC.
Design: Cell line study.
Main outcome measures: Tumor cell growth with various chemotherapeutic drugs (methotrexate, doxorubicin hydrochloride, adriamycin, and cisplatin) was measured in the presence or absence of HA and other inhibitors of the EGFR-mediated signaling pathway. Immunoblotting was used to study EGFR signaling. Migration assays provided one measure of tumor progression.
Results: The addition of HA, but not HA plus anti-CD44 antibody, resulted in a 2-fold reduced ability of methotrexate and an 8-fold reduced ability of adriamycin to cause HNSCC cell death. Immunoblotting studies demonstrated that HA can promote an association between CD44 and EGFR as well as CD44-dependent activation of EGFR-mediated signaling. Migration assays demonstrated that HA-CD44 can promote tumor migration with EGFR signaling. The presence of AG1478, an EGFR inhibitor, and U0126, an extracellular signal-regulated kinase inhibitor, inhibited HA-mediated tumor growth, migration, and chemotherapy resistance.
Conclusions: Our results indicate that HA promotes CD44/EGFR interaction, EGFR-mediated oncogenic signaling, and chemotherapy resistance in HNSCC. Perturbation of HA-CD44-mediated signaling may be a promising and novel strategy to treat HNSCC.