CD44 is associated with the aggressive phenotype of nasopharyngeal carcinoma through redox regulation

Int J Mol Sci. 2013 Jun 26;14(7):13266-81. doi: 10.3390/ijms140713266.


Recent studies have shown that cancer stem-like cells (CSCs) within a tumor have the capacity for self-renewal and differentiation, and are associated with an aggressive phenotype and therapeutic resistance. Studies have also associated tumor progression with alterations in the levels of intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS). In this study, we cultured nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) CSCs in conditions that allowed sphere formation. The resulting sphere cells displayed stemness properties, characteristics of the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), and increased expression of the CSC surface marker CD44. We further evaluated the association between CD44 expression and EMT marker expression, and any correlation with redox status, in these CSCs. We showed that the EMT in sphere cells is associated with the upregulation of CD44 expression and increased ROS generation, which might promote NPC aggressiveness. We also identified the coexpression of CD44 with the EMT marker N-cadherin in sphere cells, and downregulated CD44 expression after the addition of the antioxidant N-acetyl cysteine. Our results indicate that CD44 plays a role in the EMT phenotype of CSCs in NPC, and suggest its involvement in EMT-associated ROS production. These findings might facilitate the development of a novel therapy for the prevention of NPC recurrence and metastasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Hyaluronan Receptors / biosynthesis*
  • Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasm Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*


  • CD44 protein, human
  • Hyaluronan Receptors
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Reactive Oxygen Species