Expression of CD44 splice variants in human skin and epidermal tumours

Research paper by S. Seiter, W. Tilgen, K. Herrmann, M. Zöller, D. Schadendorf, E. Patzelt, P. Möller

Indexed on: 01 Jun '96Published on: 01 Jun '96Published in: Virchows Archiv


Splice variants of the adhesion molecule CD44 (CD44v) are important in the lymphatic spread of rat carcinoma cells. In several human tumours expression of CD44v correlates with tumour progression. However, little is known about the physiological functions of distinct variant exons. Here we report on the immunohistological evaluation of CD44 expression in normal human skin and epidermal tumours which do not metastasise, or do so vary rarely. Frozen tissues were stained with a panel of monoclonal antibodies, recognizing epitopes of the CD44 standard isoform, as well as of variant exons v5, v6, v7, v7–v8 and v10. Stratum basale and spinosum as well as the root shaft of hairs reacted strongly with the whole panel of anti-CD44 antibodies. Stratum corneum, acinar cells of sebaceous and eccrine sweat glands stained with anti-CD44v5, anti-CD44v6 and anti-CD44v7, but not with anti-CD44v10, the latter recognizing the “epithelial isoform” (CD44v8–v10) of CD44. Ductal cells of glands and apocrine glands did not express CD44v. Compared with its expression in normal human skin, CD44v expression was reduced in basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin. This was particularly true of CD44v10. The expression of CD44v in normal skin and dermal appendages indicates that not all combinations of variant exons are involved in tumour progression. Since the epithelial isoform is particularly downregulated in basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin, it is unlikely that exons v8–v10 play a role in tumour progression. Rather, they may be of functional importance in maintenance of the epidermal structure.