Spontaneous metastasis xenograft models link CD44 isoform 4 to angiogenesis, hypoxia, EMT and mitochondria-related pathways in colorectal cancer

  • Arun Everest-Dass (Shared first author)
  • Stepan Nersisyan (Shared first author)
  • Hanna Maar (Shared first author)
  • Victor Novosad
  • Jennifer Schröder-Schwarz
  • Vera Freytag
  • Johanna L Stuke
  • Mia C Beine
  • Alina Schiecke
  • Marie-Therese Haider
  • Malte Kriegs
  • Omar Elakad
  • Hanibal Bohnenberger
  • Lena-Christin Conradi
  • Maria Raygorodskaya
  • Linda Krause
  • Mark von Itzstein
  • Alexander Tonevitsky
  • Udo Schumacher
  • Diana Maltseva (Shared last author)
  • Daniel Wicklein (Shared last author)
  • Tobias Lange (Shared last author)


Hematogenous metastasis limits the survival of colorectal cancer (CRC) patients. Here, we illuminated the roles of CD44 isoforms in this process. Isoforms 3 and 4 were predominantly expressed in CRC patients. CD44 isoform 4 indicated poor outcome and correlated with epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and decreased oxidative phosphorylation (OxPhos) in patients; opposite associations were found for isoform 3. Pan-CD44 knockdown (kd) independently impaired primary tumor formation and abrogated distant metastasis in CRC xenografts. The xenograft tumors mainly expressed the clinically relevant CD44 isoforms 3 and 4. Both isoforms were enhanced in the paranecrotic, hypoxic tumor regions but were generally absent in lung metastases. Upon CD44 kd, tumor angiogenesis was increased in the paranecrotic areas, accompanied by reduced hypoxia-inducible factor-1α and CEACAM5 but increased E-cadherin expression. Mitochondrial genes and proteins were induced upon pan-CD44 kd, as were OxPhos genes. Hypoxia increased VEGF release from tumor spheres, particularly upon CD44 kd. Genes affected upon CD44 kd in xenografts specifically overlapped concordantly with genes correlating with CD44 isoform 4 (but not isoform 3) in patients, validating the clinical relevance of the used model and highlighting the metastasis-promoting role of CD44 isoform 4.

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Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 01.2024

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PubMed 37849446