Last updated
Protein CD44 PDB 1poz.png
Available structures
PDB Ortholog search: PDBe RCSB
Aliases CD44 , CDW44, CSPG8, ECMR-III, HCELL, HUTCH-I, IN, LHR, MC56, MDU2, MDU3, MIC4, Pgp1, CD44 molecule (Indian blood group)
External IDs OMIM: 107269 MGI: 88338 HomoloGene: 508 GeneCards: CD44
Gene location (Human)
Ideogram human chromosome 11.svg
Chr. Chromosome 11 (human) [1]
Human chromosome 11 ideogram.svg
HSR 1996 II 3.5e.svg
Red rectangle 2x18.png
Band 11p13Start35,138,870 bp [1]
End35,232,402 bp [1]
RNA expression pattern
PBB GE CD44 204490 s at fs.png

PBB GE CD44 212063 at fs.png

PBB GE CD44 204489 s at fs.png
More reference expression data
RefSeq (mRNA)
RefSeq (protein)
Location (UCSC) Chr 11: 35.14 – 35.23 Mb Chr 2: 102.81 – 102.9 Mb
PubMed search [3] [4]
View/Edit Human View/Edit Mouse

The CD44 antigen is a cell-surface glycoprotein involved in cell–cell interactions, cell adhesion and migration. In humans, the CD44 antigen is encoded by the CD44 gene on Chromosome 11. [5] CD44 has been referred to as HCAM (homing cell adhesion molecule), Pgp-1 (phagocytic glycoprotein-1), Hermes antigen, lymphocyte homing receptor, ECM-III, and HUTCH-1.

Cell (biology) the basic structural and functional unit of all organisms. Includes the plasma membrane and any external encapsulating structures such as the cell wall and cell envelope.

The cell is the basic structural, functional, and biological unit of all known living organisms. A cell is the smallest unit of life. Cells are often called the "building blocks of life". The study of cells is called cell biology or cellular biology.

Glycoprotein protein with oligosaccaride modifications

Glycoproteins are proteins which contain oligosaccharide chains (glycans) covalently attached to amino acid side-chains. The carbohydrate is attached to the protein in a cotranslational or posttranslational modification. This process is known as glycosylation. Secreted extracellular proteins are often glycosylated.

Gene basic physical and functional unit of heredity

In biology, a gene is a sequence of nucleotides in DNA or RNA that codes for a molecule that has a function. During gene expression, the DNA is first copied into RNA. The RNA can be directly functional or be the intermediate template for a protein that performs a function. The transmission of genes to an organism's offspring is the basis of the inheritance of phenotypic trait. These genes make up different DNA sequences called genotypes. Genotypes along with environmental and developmental factors determine what the phenotypes will be. Most biological traits are under the influence of polygenes as well as gene–environment interactions. Some genetic traits are instantly visible, such as eye color or number of limbs, and some are not, such as blood type, risk for specific diseases, or the thousands of basic biochemical processes that constitute life.


Tissue distribution and isoforms

CD44 is expressed in a large number of mammalian cell types. The standard isoform, designated CD44s, comprising exons 1–5 and 16–20 is expressed in most cell types. CD44 splice variants containing variable exons are designated CD44v. Some epithelial cells also express a larger isoform (CD44E), which includes exons v8–10. [6]

Protein isoform

A protein isoform, or "protein variant" is a member of a set of highly similar proteins that originate from a single gene or gene family and are the result of genetic differences. While many perform the same or similar biological roles, some isoforms have unique functions. A set of protein isoforms may be formed from alternative splicings, variable promotor usage, or other post-transcriptional modifications of a single gene; post-translational modifications are generally not considered. Through RNA splicing mechanisms, mRNA has the ability to select different protein-coding segments (exons) of a gene, or even different parts of exons from RNA to form different mRNA sequences. Each unique sequence produces a specific form of a protein.

An exon is any part of a gene that will encode a part of the final mature RNA produced by that gene after introns have been removed by RNA splicing. The term exon refers to both the DNA sequence within a gene and to the corresponding sequence in RNA transcripts. In RNA splicing, introns are removed and exons are covalently joined to one another as part of generating the mature messenger RNA. Just as the entire set of genes for a species constitutes the genome, the entire set of exons constitutes the exome.

Epithelium type of animal tissue and human

Epithelium is one of the four basic types of animal tissue, along with connective tissue, muscle tissue and nervous tissue. Epithelial tissues line the outer surfaces of organs and blood vessels throughout the body, as well as the inner surfaces of cavities in many internal organs. An example is the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin.


CD44 participates in a wide variety of cellular functions including lymphocyte activation, recirculation and homing, hematopoiesis, and tumor metastasis.

Lymphocyte Subtype of white blood cell

A lymphocyte is one of the subtypes of white blood cell in a vertebrate's immune system. Lymphocytes include natural killer cells, T cells, and B cells. They are the main type of cell found in lymph, which prompted the name "lymphocyte".

Metastasis spread of a disease inside a body

Metastasis is a pathogenic agent's spread from an initial or primary site to a different or secondary site within the host's body; it is typically spoken of as such spread by a cancerous tumor. The newly pathological sites, then, are metastases (mets). It is generally distinguished from cancer invasion, which is the direct extension and penetration by cancer cells into neighboring tissues.

CD44 is a receptor for hyaluronic acid and can also interact with other ligands, such as osteopontin, collagens, and matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). CD44 function is controlled by its posttranslational modifications. One critical modification involves discrete sialofucosylations rendering the selectin-binding glycoform of CD44 called HCELL (for Hematopoietic Cell E-selectin/L-selectin Ligand). [7] (see below)

Hyaluronic acid anionic, nonsulfated glycosaminoglycan

Hyaluronic acid, also called hyaluronan, is an anionic, nonsulfated glycosaminoglycan distributed widely throughout connective, epithelial, and neural tissues. It is unique among glycosaminoglycans in that it is nonsulfated, forms in the plasma membrane instead of the Golgi apparatus, and can be very large: human synovial HA averages about 7 million Da per molecule, or about twenty thousand disaccharide monomers, while other sources mention 3–4 million Da. One of the chief components of the extracellular matrix, hyaluronan contributes significantly to cell proliferation and migration, and may also be involved in the progression of some malignant tumors.

Ligand molecule or functional group that binds or can bind to the central atom in a coordination complex

In coordination chemistry, a ligand is an ion or molecule that binds to a central metal atom to form a coordination complex. The bonding with the metal generally involves formal donation of one or more of the ligand's electron pairs. The nature of metal–ligand bonding can range from covalent to ionic. Furthermore, the metal–ligand bond order can range from one to three. Ligands are viewed as Lewis bases, although rare cases are known to involve Lewis acidic "ligands".

Osteopontin protein-coding gene in the species Homo sapiens

Osteopontin (OPN), also known as bone sialoprotein I, early T-lymphocyte activation (ETA-1), secreted phosphoprotein 1 (SPP1), 2ar and Rickettsia resistance (Ric), is a protein that in humans is encoded by the SPP1 gene. The murine ortholog is Spp1. Osteopontin is a SIBLING (glycoprotein) that was first identified in 1986 in osteoblasts.

Transcripts for this gene undergo complex alternative splicing that results in many functionally distinct isoforms; however, the full length nature of some of these variants has not been determined. Alternative splicing is the basis for the structural and functional diversity of this protein, and may be related to tumor metastasis. Splice variants of CD44 on colon cancer cells display sialofucosylated HCELL glycoforms that serve as P-, L-, and E-selectin ligands and fibrin, but not fibrinogen, receptors under hemodynamic flow conditions pertinent to the process of cancer metastasis. [8] [9]

Alternative splicing process of gene expression

Alternative splicing, or differential splicing, is a regulated process during gene expression that results in a single gene coding for multiple proteins. In this process, particular exons of a gene may be included within or excluded from the final, processed messenger RNA (mRNA) produced from that gene. Consequently, the proteins translated from alternatively spliced mRNAs will contain differences in their amino acid sequence and, often, in their biological functions. Notably, alternative splicing allows the human genome to direct the synthesis of many more proteins than would be expected from its 20,000 protein-coding genes.

CD44 gene transcription is at least in part activated by beta-catenin and Wnt signalling (also linked to tumour development).

Beta-catenin protein-coding gene in the species Homo sapiens

Catenin beta-1, also known as β-catenin, is a protein that in humans is encoded by the CTNNB1 gene.

The Wnt signaling pathways are a group of signal transduction pathways which begin with proteins that pass signals into a cell through cell surface receptors. Wnt is an acronym in the field of genetics that stands for 'Wingless/Integrated'.


The HCELL glycoform was originally discovered on human hematopoietic stem cells and leukemic blasts, [7] [10] [11] [12] and was subsequently identified on cancer cells. [9] [13] [14] [15] [16] HCELL functions as a "bone homing receptor", directing migration of human hematopoietic stem cells and mesenchymal stem cells to bone marrow. [11] Ex vivo glycan engineering of the surface of live cells has been used to enforce HCELL expression on any cell that expresses CD44. [17] CD44 glycosylation also directly controls its binding capacity to fibrin and immobilized fibrinogen. [8] [18]

Clinical significance

The protein is a determinant for the Indian blood group system.

In addition, variations in CD44 are reported as cell surface markers for some breast and prostate cancer stem cells. In breast cancer research CD44+/CD24- expression is commonly used as a marker for breast CSCs and is used to sort breast cancer cells into a population enriched in cells with stem-like characteristics [19] and has been seen as an indicator of increased survival time in epithelial ovarian cancer patients. [20]

Endometrial cells in women with endometriosis demonstrate increased expression of splice variants of CD44, and increased adherence to peritoneal cells. [21]

CD44 variant isoforms are also relevant to the progression of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. [22] [23]

Monoclonal antibodies against CD44 variants include bivatuzumab for v6.

CD44 in cancer

CD44 is a multistructural and multifunctional cell surface molecule involved in cell proliferation, cell differentiation, cell migration, angiogenesis, presentation of cytokines, chemokines, and growth factors to the corresponding receptors, and docking of proteases at the cell membrane, as well as in signaling for cell survival. All these biological properties are essential to the physiological activities of normal cells, but they are also associated with the pathologic activities of cancer cells. Experiments in animals have shown that targeting of CD44 by antibodies, antisense oligonucleotides, and CD44-soluble proteins markedly reduces the malignant activities of various neoplasms, stressing the therapeutic potential of anti-CD44 agents. High levels of the adhesion molecule CD44 on leukemic cells are essential to generate leukemia. [24] Furthermore, because alternative splicing and posttranslational modifications generate many different CD44 sequences, including, perhaps, tumor-specific sequences, the production of anti-CD44 tumor-specific agents may be a realistic therapeutic approach. [25] However, in many cancers (renal cancer and non-Hodgkin's lymphomas are exceptions), a high level of CD44 expression is not always associated with an unfavorable outcome. On the contrary, in some neoplasms CD44 upregulation is associated with a favorable outcome. Additionally, in many cases different research groups analyzing the same neoplastic disease reached contradictory conclusions regarding the correlation between CD44 expression and disease prognosis, possibly due to differences in methodology. These problems must be resolved before applying anti-CD44 therapy to human cancers. [26]


CD44 has been shown to interact with:

Related Research Articles

Carcinoembryonic antigen

Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) describes a set of highly related glycoproteins involved in cell adhesion. CEA is normally produced in gastrointestinal tissue during fetal development, but the production stops before birth. Consequently, CEA is usually present at very low levels in the blood of healthy adults. However, the serum levels are raised in some types of cancer, which means that it can be used as a tumor marker in clinical tests. Serum levels can also be elevated in heavy smokers.

Neural cell adhesion molecule protein-coding gene in the species Homo sapiens

Neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM), also called CD56, is a homophilic binding glycoprotein expressed on the surface of neurons, glia and skeletal muscle. Although CD56 is often considered a marker of neural lineage commitment due to its discovery site, CD56 expression is also found in, among others, the hematopoietic system. Here, the expression of CD56 is most stringently associated with, but certainly not limited to, natural killer cells. CD56 has been detected on other lymphoid cells, including gamma delta (γδ) Τ cells and activated CD8+ T cells, as well as on dendritic cells. NCAM has been implicated as having a role in cell–cell adhesion, neurite outgrowth, synaptic plasticity, and learning and memory.

CXCR4 protein-coding gene in the species Homo sapiens

C-X-C chemokine receptor type 4 (CXCR-4) also known as fusin or CD184 is a protein that in humans is encoded by the CXCR4 gene.


The selectins are a family of cell adhesion molecules. All selectins are single-chain transmembrane glycoproteins that share similar properties to C-type lectins due to a related amino terminus and calcium-dependent binding. Selectins bind to sugar moieties and so are considered to be a type of lectin, cell adhesion proteins that bind sugar polymers.

P-selectin protein-coding gene in the species Homo sapiens

P-selectin is a protein that in humans is encoded by the SELP gene.

E-selectin protein-coding gene in the species Homo sapiens

E-selectin, also known as CD62 antigen-like family member E (CD62E), endothelial-leukocyte adhesion molecule 1 (ELAM-1), or leukocyte-endothelial cell adhesion molecule 2 (LECAM2), is a selectin cell adhesion molecule expressed only on endothelial cells activated by cytokines. Like other selectins, it plays an important part in inflammation. In humans, E-selectin is encoded by the SELE gene.

Paxillin protein-coding gene in the species Homo sapiens

Paxillin is a protein that in humans is encoded by the PXN gene. Paxillin is expressed at focal adhesions of non-striated cells and at costameres of striated muscle cells, and it functions to adhere cells to the extracellular matrix. Mutations in PXN as well as abnormal expression of paxillin protein has been implicated in the progression of various cancers.

PTK2 protein-coding gene in the species Homo sapiens

PTK2 protein tyrosine kinase 2 (PTK2), also known as focal adhesion kinase (FAK), is a protein that, in humans, is encoded by the PTK2 gene. PTK2 is a focal adhesion-associated protein kinase involved in cellular adhesion and spreading processes. It has been shown that when FAK was blocked, breast cancer cells became less metastatic due to decreased mobility.

Podocalyxin, a sialoglycoprotein, is thought to be the major constituent of the glycocalyx of podocytes in the glomerulus. It is a member of the CD34 family of transmembrane sialomucins. It coats the secondary foot processes of the podocytes. It is negatively charged and thus functions to keep adjacent foot processes separated, thereby keeping the urinary filtration barrier open. This function is further supported by knockout studies in mice which reveal an essential role in podocyte morphogenesis and a role in the opening of vascular lumens and regulation of vascular permeability. Of note, this is the only cell surface sialomucin knockout known to display a lethal phenotype. Podocalyxin is also upregulated in a number of cancers and is frequently associated with poor prognosis. Sialylated, O-glycosylated glycoforms of podocalyxin expressed by colon carcinoma cells possess L-selectin and E-selectin binding activity, and may be pivotal to the metastatic spread of colon carcinoma cells. At the cellular level podocalyxin has also been shown to regulate the size and topology of apical cell domains and act as a potent inducer of microvillus formation.

CD97 protein-coding gene in the species Homo sapiens

Cluster of differentiation 97 is a protein also known as BL-Ac[F2] encoded by the ADGRE5 gene. CD97 is a member of the adhesion GPCR family. Adhesion GPCRs are characterized by an extended extracellular region often possessing N-terminal protein modules that is linked to a TM7 region via a domain known as the GPCR-Autoproteolysis INducing (GAIN) domain.

ACKR3 protein-coding gene in the species Homo sapiens

Atypical chemokine receptor 3 also known as C-X-C chemokine receptor type 7 (CXCR-7) and G-protein coupled receptor 159 (GPR159) is a protein that in humans is encoded by the ACKR3 gene.

CEACAM1 protein-coding gene in the species Homo sapiens

Carcinoembryonic antigen-related cell adhesion molecule 1 (CEACAM1) also known as CD66a, is a human glycoprotein, and a member of the carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) gene family.

LIGHT (protein) protein-coding gene in the species Homo sapiens

LIGHT, also known as tumor necrosis factor superfamily member 14 (TNFSF14), is a secreted protein of the TNF superfamily. It is recognized by herpesvirus entry mediator (HVEM), as well as decoy receptor 3.

LAMP1 protein-coding gene in the species Homo sapiens

Lysosomal-associated membrane protein 1 (LAMP-1) also known as lysosome-associated membrane glycoprotein 1 and CD107a, is a protein that in humans is encoded by the LAMP1 gene. The human LAMP1 gene is located on the long arm (q) of chromosome 13 at region 3, band 4 (13q34).

ALCAM protein-coding gene in the species Homo sapiens

CD166 antigen is a 100-105 kD typeI transmembrane glycoprotein that is a member of the immunoglobulin superfamily of proteins. In humans it is encoded by the ALCAM gene. It is also called CD166, MEMD, SC-1/DM-GRASP/BEN in the chicken, and KG-CAM in the rat.

Hyaluronan-mediated motility receptor protein-coding gene in the species Homo sapiens

Hyaluronan-mediated motility receptor (HMMR), also known as RHAMM is a protein which in humans is encoded by the HMMR gene. RHAMM recently has been also designated CD168.

FUT7 protein-coding gene in the species Homo sapiens

Alpha-(1,3)-fucosyltransferase is an enzyme that in humans is encoded by the FUT7 gene.

CD226 protein-coding gene in the species Homo sapiens

CD226, PTA1 or DNAM-1 is a protein that in humans is encoded by the CD226 gene which is located on chromosome 18q22.3.

Vascular endothelial growth inhibitor protein-coding gene in the species Homo sapiens

Vascular endothelial growth inhibitor (VEGI), also known as TNF-like ligand 1A (TL1A) and TNF superfamily member 15 (TNFSF15), is protein that in humans is encoded by the TNFSF15 gene. VEGI is an anti-angiogenic protein. It belongs to tumor necrosis factor (ligand) superfamily, where it is member 15. It is the sole known ligand for death receptor 3, and it can also be recognized by decoy receptor 3.

ADAM28 protein-coding gene in the species Homo sapiens

Disintegrin and metalloproteinase domain-containing protein 28 is an enzyme that in humans is encoded by the ADAM28 gene.


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Further reading