Deletion of Cd44 Inhibits Metastasis Formation of Liver Cancer in Nf2-Mutant Mice

Monserrat Gerardo-Ramírez, Vanessa Giam, Diana Becker, Marco Groth, Nils Hartmann, Helen Morrison, Helen L. May-Simera, Markus P. Radsak, Jens U. Marquardt, Peter R. Galle, Peter Herrlich, Beate K. Straub, Monika Hartmann*

*Corresponding author for this work


Primary liver cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide. An increasing body of evidence suggests that the Hippo tumor suppressor pathway plays a critical role in restricting cell proliferation and determining cell fate during physiological and pathological processes in the liver. Merlin (Moesin-Ezrin-Radixin-like protein) encoded by the NF2 (neurofibromatosis type 2) gene is an upstream regulator of the Hippo signaling pathway. Targeting of Merlin to the plasma membrane seems to be crucial for its major tumor-suppressive functions; this is facilitated by interactions with membrane-associated proteins, including CD44 (cluster of differentiation 44). Mutations within the CD44-binding domain of Merlin have been reported in many human cancers. This study evaluated the relative contribution of CD44- and Merlin-dependent processes to the development and progression of liver tumors. To this end, mice with a liver-specific deletion of the Nf2 gene were crossed with Cd44-knockout mice and subjected to extensive histological, biochemical and molecular analyses. In addition, cells were isolated from mutant livers and analyzed by in vitro assays. Deletion of Nf2 in the liver led to substantial liver enlargement and generation of hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs), intrahepatic cholangiocarcinomas (iCCAs), as well as mixed hepatocellular cholangiocarcinomas. Whilst deletion of Cd44 had no influence on liver size or primary liver tumor development, it significantly inhibited metastasis formation in Nf2-mutant mice. CD44 upregulates expression of integrin β2 and promotes transendothelial migration of liver cancer cells, which may facilitate metastatic spreading. Overall, our results suggest that CD44 may be a promising target for intervening with metastatic spreading of liver cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1257
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 26.04.2023

Research Areas and Centers

  • Centers: University Cancer Center Schleswig-Holstein (UCCSH)

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