Hyaluronan (HA), an unbranched polysaccharide consisting of repeated glucuronic acid/N-acetylglucosamine disaccharide units, is ubiquitously present in the extracellular matrix of many tissues (for a more comprehensive review see: Fraser et al., 1997). Increased amounts of hyaluronan are produced by solid tumors and tumor-associated fibroblasts, and tumor-induced HA is correlated with poor prognosis. HA is well known to stimulate the migration of a large variety of cell types. Stimulation of cell migration by HA has been explained by different mechanisms. HA was shown to specifically bind to cell surface receptors, and inhibition of HA-receptor function was demonstrated to decrease cell migration and tumor growth. On the other hand, HA as a large hydrophilic molecule is also known to modulate the extracellular packing of collagen and fibrin, leading to increased fiber size and porosity of extracellular substrates. Hence a modified matrix architecture might similarly account for increased locomotion of cells. In this review, we attempted to summarize the available data on HA-induced cell migration, with particular emphasis on the role of HA receptors in three-dimensional cell migration. Although the HA receptor CD44 has been shown to mediate migration of cells over two-dimensional hyaluronan-coated surfaces in vitro, there is only little evidence that HA-binding to CD44 or other HA receptors has major impact on the locomotion of cells through three-dimensional matrices in vivo. We showed recently that the promigratory effect of HA in fibrin gels is largely due to HA-mediated modulation of fibrin polymerization. By increasing the porosity of fibrin gels, HA strongly accelerates cell migration. The porosity of matrices therefore appears as an important and probably underestimated determinant of cell migration and tumor spread.
V. Nehls, W. Hayen
Histology and histopathology