OBJECTIVE: The interactions of CD44 with hyaluronan are thought to be crucial for tumor cell attachment to the extracellular matrix, migration, and invasion. For migration to occur, however, the interactions between hyaluronan and cell surface receptors need to be transient. Hyaluronidases may facilitate the degradation of hyaluronan bound to the cell surface and thus reduce the interactions of the cells with the matrix, whereas the overproduction of hyaluronan in the absence of hyaluronidase activity may prevent cells from proliferating or invading normal surrounding tissue. METHODS: We analyzed the effects in vitro and in vivo of hyaluronan synthase-2 (HAS2) overexpression on a murine glioma cell line that is deficient in hyaluronidase activity. In addition, we evaluated the expression levels of HAS and hyaluronidase genes in human glioma cell lines and in glioma specimens. RESULTS: Increased hyaluronan synthesis had no effect on the in vitro proliferation of the cells but diminished their in vivo growth rate. Several human glioma cell lines were found to overexpress hyaluronan synthases, but they did so in conjunction with hyaluronidase Hyal2 and MGEA5 expression. Similarly, all glioblastomas multiforme expressed hyaluronidases MGEA5 and Hyal2. CONCLUSION: The data suggest that an increased synthesis of hyaluronan by astrocytoma cells is only promoting tumor cell growth in vivo if the cells express hyaluronidases as well.