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J Invest Dermatol. 2000 Jun;114(6):1126-35.

Tetraspanins are localized at motility-related structures and involved in normal human keratinocyte wound healing migration.

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  • 1Departments of Dermatology and Immunology, Hospital Universitario de La Princesa, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain.


We have described previously that beta1 integrins, which mediate keratinocyte cell adhesion and migration, are in ligand-occupied conformation at the basal surface but not at the lateral and apical surfaces of keratinocytes. This led us to study the cellular localization and function of tetraspanin molecules, which have been postulated to modulate integrin activity. We found that CD9 and CD81 are highly expressed by keratinocytes clearly delineating filopodia at lateral and apical surfaces. CD63 and CD151 are largely expressed in the intracellular compartment, although some membrane expression is observed. We found accumulation of CD9, CD81, and CD151 together with alpha3 and beta1 integrins at intercellular junctions. In low calcium medium, this intercellular space is crossed by a zipper of filopodia enriched in alpha3beta1 and tetraspanin proteins. Interestingly, the expression of CD9, CD81, and beta1 and alpha3 integrins was detected in the footprints and rippings of motile keratinocytes, suggesting their role in both adhesion to extracellular matrix and keratinocyte motility. beta1 integrins were only partially activated in the rips, whereas cytoskeleton-linking proteins such as talin were completely absent. On the other hand, antitetraspanin antibodies did not stain focal adhesions, which contain talin. The involvement of tetraspanins in keratinocyte motility was assessed in a wound healing migration assay. Inhibition of cell migration was observed with antibodies to CD9, CD81, beta1, and alpha3, and, to a lesser extent, to CD151. Together these results indicate that tetraspanin-integrin complexes might be involved in transient adhesion and integrin recycling during keratinocyte migration, as well as in intercellular recognition.

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