Research Papers:

CD44-mediated activation of α5β1-integrin, cortactin and paxillin signaling underpins adhesion of basal-like breast cancer cells to endothelium and fibronectin-enriched matrices

Suzanne McFarlane _, Cheryl McFarlane, Nicola Montgomery, Ashleigh Hill and David J.J. Waugh

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Oncotarget. 2015; 6:36762-36773. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.5461

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Suzanne McFarlane1, Cheryl McFarlane1, Nicola Montgomery1, Ashleigh Hill1, David J.J. Waugh1

1Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland, BT9 7BL, UK

Correspondence to:

David J.J. Waugh, e-mail: [email protected]

Keywords: CD44, breast cancer, fibronectin, integrin, vascular endothelium

Received: March 09, 2015     Accepted: September 21, 2015     Published: October 02, 2015


CD44 expression is elevated in basal-like breast cancer (BLBC) tissue, and correlates with increased efficiency of distant metastasis in patients and experimental models. We sought to characterize mechanisms underpinning CD44-promoted adhesion of BLBC cells to vascular endothelial monolayers and extracellular matrix (ECM) substrates. Stimulation with hyaluronan (HA), the native ligand for CD44, increased expression and activation of β1-integrin receptors, and increased α5-integrin subunit expression. Adhesion assays confirmed that CD44-signalling potentiated BLBC cell adhesion to endothelium and Fibronectin in an α5B1-integrin-dependent mechanism. Co-immunoprecipitation experiments confirmed HA-promoted association of CD44 with talin and the β1-integrin chain in BLBC cells. Knockdown of talin inhibited CD44 complexing with β1-integrin and repressed HA-induced, CD44-mediated activation of β1-integrin receptors. Immunoblotting confirmed that HA induced rapid phosphorylation of cortactin and paxillin, through a CD44-dependent and β1-integrin-dependent mechanism. Knockdown of CD44, cortactin or paxillin independently attenuated the adhesion of BL-BCa cells to endothelial monolayers and Fibronectin. Accordingly, we conclude that CD44 induced, integrin-mediated signaling not only underpins efficient adhesion of BLBC cells to BMECs to facilitate extravasation but initiates their adhesion to Fibronectin, enabling penetrant cancer cells to adhere more efficiently to underlying Fibronectin-enriched matrix present within the metastatic niche.

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