Purpose: Cluster of differentiation 44 (CD44) is a cell-surface glycoprotein and plays role in the progression and severity of oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). Here we report differential function of CD44 variants in OSCC progression.

Materials and methods: The expression of CD44 standard (CD44s) and variants (CD44v4, CD44v6); the activation of signaling pathways (MAPK, PI3K); the cell viability; and the MMP-9/-2 activity were assessed using RT-PCR, immunohistochemistry, Western blotting, MTT assay and gelatin zymography. These experiments were carried out using fresh human OSCC tissue specimens, including adjacent normal, noninvasive (N0), invasive tumor samples (N1-3) and chemo-radiation resistant tumor samples (RCRT). We also used OSCC cell lines, including parental (SCC9/SCC4) and Cisplatin-resistant (CisR-SCC9/-SCC4) to confirm our observation with human tissues. Knock down of CD44 variants or inactivation of MAPK/PI3K pathways was achieved for in vitro analysis in OSCC cells.

Summary: Differential expressions of CD44 variants (v4and v6) were associated with overall oral cancer aggressiveness. CD44v4 expression was positively correlated with the activation of MAPK pathway causing chemoresistance. Conversely, CD44v6 expression and activation of PI3K-Akt caused invasiveness of OSCC. Finally, an overlapping role of two major signal transduction pathways such as MAPK and PI3K, that impinge on the variants/ isoforms expressions of a single gene i.e. CD44 that leads to the OSCC aggressiveness.

Conclusion: Collectively, these results established that CD44 variants (v4and v6) expression driven by MAPK/PI3K are associated with the overall progression, drug-resistance, invasion, and stemness characteristics leading to the aggressiveness of OSCC. Hence targeting these pathways may be exploited for treating OSCC.

Keywords: OSCC, CD44s, CD44v4/6, MAPK, PI3K, Notch, Chemoresistance, Invasion/migration, stemness, aggressiveness of OSCC.

Note: This abstract was not presented at the meeting.

Citation Format: Tanushree Kashyap, Siddavaram Nagini, Ajay Rana, Rajakishore Mishra. Differential expression of CD44 variants drive the progression, invasion, drug-resistance and stemness characteristics in human oral squamous cell carcinoma [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2019; 2019 Mar 29-Apr 3; Atlanta, GA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2019;79(13 Suppl):Abstract nr 1165.