Int. J. Dev. Biol. 66: 243 - 252 (2022)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.220008nz
© UPV/EHU Press

Hyaluronan receptor CD44: developmentally regulated expression and role in the early chick embryo

Konstantinos Konstantopoulos, Alexandros Dimiropoulos, Nikolas Zagris*

Division of Genetics and Cell and Developmental Biology, Department of Biology, University of Patras, Patras, Greece

ABSTRACT CD44 is a membrane glycoprotein and is the main receptor for hyaluronan. We studied CD44 expression and spatio-temporal distribution by RT-PCR and immunofluorescence, and used an anti-CD44 blocking antibody to perturb CD44-depended signalling programs in the early chick embryo. The intense CD44 levels we detected in the morula embryo (XI) were of particular interest, suggestive of a maternally stored transcript. Intriguingly, the early presence of CD44 seemed to be essential for the rapid synthesis of hyaluronan. At stage XIII (blastula), CD44 expression was intense in the epiblast and hypoblast. During gastrulation (HH3-4), the cells ingressing into the primitive groove and migrating, and the blood islands, expressed CD44 intensely. At HH8, the folding neural plate showed polarity regulation of CD44 expression, and expression was also intense in neural crest, notochord, and blood islands. During early organogenesis, CD44 was expressed intensely in the developing cranial and caudal neural tube that showed polarity regulation, in optic stalks, otic vesicles, pre-and migratory neural crest cells, ganglia, notochord, pharynx, gut, liver, aortae, heart, somites, vascular area, amnion and chorion, and was distinct in extracellular matrix of cranial neural tube and otic vesicle lumens. Antibody-mediated perturbation of CD44 function resulted in unorganized extracellular matrix, loss of tissue spaces, grossly abnormal notochord, intermingling of clumped neuroectoderm and mesenchyme, absence of somites and blood vessels and inhibition of neural crest cell emigration. CD44 has various pivotal roles in matrix integrity and tissue patterning, consistent with its known biochemical features and interactions with hyaluronan, growth factors, receptors and other signaling molecules.


CD44, maternal-to-zygotic transition, cell adhesion molecule, hyaluronan, chick embryogenesis

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