The receptor for hyaluronan mediated motility (RHAMM) has been reported to mediate migration, transformation, and metastatic spread of murine fibroblasts. Here we describe the expression of two human RHAMM isoforms, which are generated by alternative splicing of the primary gene transcript, by a series of human breast carcinoma cell lines. A polyclonal antibody, raised against a bacterially expressed RHAMM fusion protein, detected an 85–90 kDa protein by western blot analysis. No correlation between the level of RHAMM mRNA and protein expression with known metastatic/malignant potential of the tumour cell lines was observed. Interestingly, we found that the antibody did not stain the cell surface but the cytoplasm of breast cancer cells. The intracellular localisation of RHAMM was confirmed by subcellular fractionation studies. RHAMM proteins were capable of binding to hyaluronan, but not to heparin or chondroitin sulphate, in an vitro binding assay. We also provide evidence that a potential hyaluronan-binding motif in the N terminus of the protein is not involved in the interaction of RHAMM with hyaluronan. Our findings lead us to conclude that RHAMM does not function as a conventional motility receptor for HA in human breast cancer cells and we suggest the term RHAMM be substituted by ‘intracellular hyaluronic acid binding protein’ (IHABP).

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