CD44 splice variants have been shown to be involved in metastasis of carcinomas. In addition, the standard form of CD44 has been implicated in metastasis, particularly of melanomas and lymphomas. To investigate this, we have generated a CD44-negative mutant of the highly metastatic murine MDAY-D2 lymphosarcoma. The two CD44 alleles of this diploid cell line were sequentially disrupted by homologous recombination, using isogenic CD44 genomic constructs interrupted by a neomycin or hygromycin resistance-conferring gene. The resulting double knockout (DKO) cells had completely lost the capacity to bind to immobilized hyaluronic acid, but did not differ from MDAY-D2 cells in integrin expression or in vitro growth. Subcutaneous (s.c.) growth potential and metastatic capacity of MDAY-D2 and DKO cells were assessed by s.c. and i.v. injection of the lowest cell dose (10(3) or 10(4), respectively) that gave rise to tumor formation by MDAY-D2 cells in approximately 100% of the mice. Quite unexpectedly, we observed no difference at all in either s.c. growth rate or local invasion into surrounding tissues between MDAY-D2 cells and the CD44-negative DKO cells. Also hematogenous metastasis formation upon i.v. injection was similar: both parental and DKO cells metastasized extensively to the spleen, liver, and bone marrow. We conclude that, at least for these MDAY-D2 lymphosarcoma cells, the standard form of CD44 is dispensable for tumor growth and metastasis. Our results show that targeted disruption of genes in tumor cells is a feasible approach to study their role in tumorigenesis and metastasis.

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