C4.4A, a structural homologue of the urokinase-type plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR), was originally identified as a metastasis-associated membrane protein, but little is known about its structural and functional properties. Therefore, we expressed, purified and characterized a soluble truncated form of human C4.4A, and used this protein to produce specific polyclonal anti-C4.4A antibodies. By immunohistochemistry we observed a pronounced surface staining for C4.4A in suprabasal keratinocytes of chronic human wounds and found C4.4A expression markedly upregulated in migrating keratinocytes during re-epithelisation of incisional skin wounds. Phorbol-ester-induced hyperplasia of mouse skin is also accompanied by a significant induction of C4.4A expression in the multilayered, suprabasal keratinocytes. C4.4A contains two Ly-6 (leucocyte antigen 6)/uPAR/α-neurotoxin modules. Our recombinant human C4.4A is extensively modified by post-translational glycosylation, which include 5–6 N-linked carbohydrates primarily located in or close to its second Ly-6/uPAR/α-neurotoxin module and approximately 15 O-linked carbohydrates clustered in a Ser/Thr/Pro-rich region at the C-terminus. A highly protease-sensitive region (Tyr200–Arg204) is located between these two clusters of N- and O-linked carbohydrates. The natural, glycolipid-anchored C4.4A from amnion membranes of human term placenta exhibits similar properties. Using recombinant, soluble C4.4A or MCF 7 cells, which express significant amounts of GPI-anchored C4.4A, we find no evidence for an interaction between C4.4A and uPA, a property suggested previously for rat C4.4A. Collectively these data indicate that C4.4A, although being a structural homologue of uPAR, is unlikely to have a functional overlap with uPAR.

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