Can CD44 be a mediator of cell destruction? the challenge of type 1 diabetes

Nathalie Assayag-Asherie, Dror Sever, Marika Bogdani, Pamela Johnson, Talya Weiss, Ariel Ginzberg, Sharon Perles, Lola Weiss, Lora Eshkar Sebban, Eva A. Turley, Elimelech Okon, Itamar Raz, David Naor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


CD44 is a multi-functional receptor with multiple of isoforms engaged in modulation of cell trafficking and transmission of apoptotic signals. We have previously shown that injection of anti-CD44 antibody into NOD mice induced resistance to type 1 diabetes (T1D). In this communication we describe our efforts to understand the mechanism underlying this effect.We found that CD44-deficient NOD mice develop stronger resistance to T1D than wild-Type littermates. This effect is not explained by the involvement of CD44 in cell migration, because CD44-deficient inflammatory cells surprisingly had greater invasive potential than the corresponding wild type cells, probably owing to molecular redundancy. We have previously reported and we show here again that CD44 expression and hyaluronic acid (HA, the principal ligand for CD44) accumulation are detected in pancreatic islets of diabetic NOD mice, but not of non-diabetic DBA/1 mice. Expression of CD44 on insulin-secreting β cells renders them susceptible to the autoimmune attack, and is associated with a diminution in β-cells function (e.g., less insulin production and/or insulin secretion) and possibly also with an enhanced apoptosis rate. The diabetes-supportive effect of CD44 expression on β cells was assessed by the TUNEL assay and further strengthened by functional assays exhibiting increased nitric oxide release, reduced insulin secretion after glucose stimulation and decreased insulin content in β cells. All these parameters could not be detected in CD44-deficient islets. We further suggest that HA-binding to CD44-expressing β cells is implicated in β-cell demise. Altogether, these data agree with the concept that CD44 is a receptor capable of modulating cell fate. This finding is important for other pathologies (e.g., cancer, neurodegenerative diseases) in which CD44 and HA appear to be implicated.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0143589
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes


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