Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Biomedical Sciences

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Frank C Marini, PhD

Committee Member

Fredrick Lang, MD

Committee Member

Ann Klopp, MD, PhD

Committee Member

Brian Davis, PhD

Committee Member

Sendurai Mani, PhD


The tumor microenvironment is comprised of a vast array of heterogeneous cells including both normal and neoplastic cells. The tumor stroma recruitment process has been exploited for an effective gene delivery technique using bone marrow derived MSC. Targeted migration of the MSC toward the tumor microenvironment, while successful, is not yet fully understood. This study was designed to assess the role of CD44 in the migration of MSC toward the tumor microenvironment and to determine the implications of CD44-deficient MSC within the tumor stroma. Inhibition of MSC migration was evaluated through a variety of methods in vitro and in vivo including CD44 receptor knockdown, CD44 antagonists, CD44 neutralizing antibodies and small molecule inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinases. Blocking CD44 signaling through MMP inhibition was characterized by lack of intracellular domain cleavage and lead to the decrease in Twist gene expression. A functional relationship between CD44 and Twist expression was confirmed by chromatin immunoprecipitation.

Next, a series of murine tumor models were used to examine the role of CD44 deficient stroma within the tumor microenvironment. Labeled transgenic CD44 knockout (KO) MSC or wild type (WT) C57/B6 MSC were used to analyze the stromal incorporation within murine breast carcinomas (EO771 and 4T1). Subsequent tumors were analyzed for vessel formation (CD31), and the presence of tumor associated fibroblast (TAF) markers, α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA), fibroblast activation protein (FAP), and fibroblast specific protein (FSP). The tumors with CD44KO MSC cells had less vessel formation than the tumors with WT MSC. The lack of fibroblastic TAF population as defined by FAP/FSP expression by the CD44KO MSC admixed tumors suggest that the bone marrow derived population of MSC were unable to contribute to the fibroblastic stromal population. Subsequently, a bone marrow transplantation experiment confirmed the endogenous migratory deficiencies of the CD44KO bone marrow derived stromal cells toward the tumor microenvironment in vivo. WT mice with CD44KO bone marrow had less CD44KOderived tumor stroma compared to mice with WT bone marrow. These results indicate that CD44 is crucial to stromal cell migration and incorporation to the tumor microenvironment as TAF.


Mesenchymal Stem cells, Tumor/carcinoma associated fibroblast, CD44, tumor microenvironment