Hyaluronan-mediated CD44 activation of RhoGTPase signaling and cytoskeleton function promotes tumor progression

Semin Cancer Biol. 2008 Aug;18(4):251-9. doi: 10.1016/j.semcancer.2008.03.007. Epub 2008 Mar 26.


Hyaluronan (HA), a major component of the extracellular matrix (ECM), is enriched in many types of tumors. In cancer patients HA concentrations are usually higher in malignant tumors than in corresponding benign or normal tissues, and in some tumor types the level of HA is predictive of malignancy. HA is often bound to CD44 isoforms which are ubiquitous, abundant, and functionally important cell surface receptors. This article reviews the current evidence for HA/CD44-mediated activation of the ankyrin-based cytoskeleton and RhoGTPase signaling during tumor progression. A special focus is placed on the role of HA-mediated CD44 interaction with unique downstream effectors (e.g., the cytoskeletal protein, ankyrin and/or various GTPases (e.g., RhoA, Rac1 and Cdc42)) in coordinating intracellular signaling pathways (e.g., Ca(2+) mobilization, Rho signaling, PI3 kinase-AKT activation, NHE1-mediated cellular acidification, transcriptional upregulation and cytoskeletal function) and generating the concomitant onset of tumor cell activities (e.g., tumor cell adhesion, growth, survival, migration and invasion) and tumor progression. I believe this information will provide valuable new insights into poorly understood aspects of solid tumor malignancy. Furthermore, the new knowledge concerning HA/CD44-mediated oncogenic signaling events will have potentially important clinical utility, and could establish CD44 and its associated signaling molecules as important tumor markers for the early detection and evaluation of oncogenic potential. It could also serve as ground work for the future development of new drug targets to inhibit HA/CD44-mediated tumor metastasis and cancer progression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytoskeleton / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hyaluronan Receptors / metabolism*
  • Hyaluronic Acid / physiology*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • rhoA GTP-Binding Protein / metabolism*


  • Hyaluronan Receptors
  • Hyaluronic Acid
  • rhoA GTP-Binding Protein