We previously found that the CD44 glycoprotein on some lymphocytes can mediate adhesion to hyaluronate (HA) bearing cells. However, many questions remain about the molecular heterogeneity of CD44 and mechanisms which control its recognition of this ligand. In vitro mutagenesis and DNA sequencing have now been used to investigate the importance of the membrane proximal region of murine CD44 for recognition of soluble or cell surface HA. CD44 with an 83 amino acid deletion in this region mediated binding to soluble ligand and the apparent avidity increased markedly in the presence of a particular antibody to CD44, IRAWB14. The shortened CD44 was however inefficient in mediating adhesion of transfected cells to HA immobilized on cell surfaces. Four new murine isoforms of CD44 were isolated from a carcinoma line by use of the polymerase chain reaction. Only two of them correspond to ones recently discovered in rat and human cells. The longest variant nearly doubled the length of the extracellular portion of the molecule and introduced an additional 20 potential sites for glycosylation. When expressed on T lymphoma cells, all four of the new murine CD44 isoforms were capable of mediating adhesion to HA bearing cells. This result contrasts with a report that a related human CD44 isoform lacks this ability when expressed on B lineage lymphoma cells. The new murine isoforms also conferred the ability to recognize soluble HA and were very responsive to the IRAWB14 antibody. A brief survey of normal murine cell lines and tissues revealed that the hemopoietic isoform was the most abundant species. These findings indicate that the NH2-terminal portion of CD44 is sufficient for HA recognition and that this function is not necessarily abrogated by variations which occur in the membrane proximal domain. They add to the known molecular diversity of CD44 and provide another experimental model in which isoform specific functions can be investigated.

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