Hyaluronan-CD44v3 interaction with Oct4-Sox2-Nanog promotes miR-302 expression leading to self-renewal, clonal formation, and cisplatin resistance in cancer stem cells from head and neck squamous cell carcinoma

Lilly Y W Bourguignon, Gabriel Wong, Christine Earle, Liqun Chen

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167 Scopus citations


Human head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is a highly malignant cancer associated with major morbidity and mortality. In this study, we determined that human HNSCC-derived HSC-3 cells contain a subpopulation of cancer stem cells (CSCs) characterized by high levels of CD44v3 and aldehyde dehydrogenase-1 (ALDH1) expression. These tumor cells also express several stem cell markers (the transcription factors Oct4, Sox2, and Nanog) and display the hallmark CSC properties of self-renewal/clonal formation and the ability to generate heterogeneous cell populations. Importantly, hyaluronan (HA) stimulates the CD44v3 (an HA receptor) interaction with Oct4-Sox2-Nanog leading to both a complex formation and the nuclear translocation of three CSC transcription factors. Further analysis reveals that microRNA-302 (miR-302) is controlled by an upstream promoter containing Oct4-Sox2-Nanog-binding sites, whereas chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays demonstrate that stimulation of miR-302 expression by HA-CD44 is Oct4-Sox2-Nanog-dependent in HNSCC-specific CSCs. This process results in suppression of several epigenetic regulators (AOF1/AOF2 and DNMT1) and the up-regulation of several survival proteins (cIAP-1, cIAP-2, and XIAP) leading to self-renewal, clonal formation, and cisplatin resistance. These CSCs were transfected with a specific anti-miR-302 inhibitor to silence miR-302 expression and block its target functions. Our results demonstrate that the anti-miR-302 inhibitor not only enhances the expression of AOF1/AOF2 and DNMT1 but also abrogates the production of cIAP-1, cIAP-2, and XIAP and HA-CD44v3-mediated cancer stem cell functions. Taken together, these findings strongly support the contention that the HA-induced CD44v3 interaction with Oct4-Sox2-Nanog signaling plays a pivotal role in miR-302 production leading to AOF1/AOF2/DNMT1 down-regulation and survival of protein activation. All of these events are critically important for the acquisition of cancer stem cell properties, including self-renewal, clonal formation, and chemotherapy resistance in HA-CD44v3-activated head and neck cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32800-32824
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number39
StatePublished - Sep 21 2012


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology
  • Molecular Biology

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