ELISA determinations revealed substantial concentrations (0.49 to 2.10 micrograms/ml) of soluble CD44 in murine serum, with some variation among normal mouse strains. At least three species of CD44 were identified by immunoprecipitation and SDS-PAGE analysis of serum. The most prominent was indistinguishable in mobility from that extracted from normal and transformed lymphocytes and was estimated in this way to be approximately 90 kDa. A similar estimate resulted from gel filtration under nondenaturing conditions, followed by ELISA. However, lymphocyte membrane-extracted and soluble CD44 had different mobilities after treatment with neuraminidase plus O-glycosidase, and the core protein of soluble CD44 might be 17 to 20 kDa smaller than that of CD44 on lymphocyte membranes. Furthermore, an Ab to cytoplasmic residues of CD44 failed to recognize soluble CD44 recovered from the circulation or in lymphoma culture supernatants. These observations would be consistent with cleavage of CD44 from cell surfaces; and protease inhibitors slowed the loss of CD44 from cultured lymphomas. Serum CD44 levels were significantly reduced in immunodeficient CD17.SCID and BALB/c.Xid mice, and elevated in tumor-bearing mice. Mild graft-vs-host (GVH) reactions also resulted in increased concentrations of CD44, as did autoimmune disease in BXSB and MRL/lpr strains of mice. Serum with high concentrations of CD44 partially blocked the binding of one ligand, hyaluronate, to CD44-bearing hybridoma cells. The degree of inhibition was positively correlated with CD44 concentration. These findings indicate that substantial quantities of CD44 can be released into the circulation by cleavage from cell surfaces and that this process is markedly influenced by immune system activity and tumor growth. The material seemed to be intact and potentially functional.
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