CD44 Splice Variants as Potential Players in Alzheimer's Disease Pathology

J Alzheimers Dis. 2017;58(4):1137-1149. doi: 10.3233/JAD-161245.


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by cognitive deficits, deposition of amyloid-β (Aβ) plaques, intracellular neurofibrillary tangles, and neuronal cell death. Neuroinflammation is commonly believed to participate in AD pathogenesis. CD44 is an inflammation-related gene encoding a widely-distributed family of alternatively spliced cell surface glycoproteins that have been implicated in inflammation, metastases, and inflammation-linked neuronal injuries. Here we investigated the expression patterns of CD44S (which does not contain any alternative exon) and CD44 splice variants in postmortem hippocampal samples from AD patients and matched non-AD controls. The expression of CD44S and CD44 splice variants CD44V3, CD44V6, and CD44V10 was significantly higher in AD patients compared to non-AD controls. Immunohistochemistry of human hippocampal sections revealed that CD44S differentially localized to neuritic plaques and astrocytes, whereas CD44V3, CD44V6, and CD44V10 expression was mostly neuronal. Consistent with these findings, we found that the expression of CD44V6 and CD44V10 was induced by Aβ peptide in neuroblastoma cells and primary neurons. Furthermore, in loss of function studies we found that both CD44V10-specific siRNA and CD44V10 antibody protected neuronal cells from Aβ-induced toxicity, suggesting a causal relationship between CD44V10 and neuronal cell death. These data indicate that certain CD44 splice variants contribute to AD pathology and that CD44V10 inhibition may serve as a new neuroprotective treatment strategy for this disease.

Keywords: Amyloid; apoptosis; dementia; expression; neurodegeneration; neuroinflammation; siRNA; splice variants; viability.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / genetics*
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Caspase 3 / metabolism
  • Cell Death / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Transformed
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hyaluronan Receptors / genetics*
  • Hyaluronan Receptors / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neuroblastoma / pathology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Peptide Fragments / pharmacology
  • Protein Isoforms / genetics
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / genetics
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Time Factors


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Hyaluronan Receptors
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Protein Isoforms
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • amyloid beta-protein (1-42)
  • Caspase 3