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J Cell Sci. 2001 Dec;114(Pt 23):4143-51.

Complexes of tetraspanins with integrins: more than meets the eye.

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  • 1CRC Institute for Cancer Studies, The University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TA, UK.


The transmembrane proteins of the tetraspanin superfamily are implicated in a diverse range of biological phenomena, including cell motility, metastasis, cell proliferation and differentiation. The tetraspanins are associated with adhesion receptors of the integrin family and regulate integrin-dependent cell migration. In cells attached to the extracellular matrix, the integrin-tetraspanin adhesion complexes are clustered into a distinct type of adhesion structure at the cell periphery. Various tetraspanins are associated with phosphatidylinositol 4-kinase and protein kinase C isoforms, and they may facilitate assembly of signalling complexes by tethering these enzymes to integrin heterodimers. At the plasma membrane, integrin-tetraspanin signalling complexes are partitioned into specific microdomains proximal to cholesterol-rich lipid rafts. A substantial fraction of tetraspanins colocalise with integrins in various intracellular vesicular compartments. It is proposed that tetraspanins can influence cell migration by one of the following mechanisms: (1) modulation of integrin signalling; (2) compartmentalisation of integrins on the cell surface; or (3) direction of intracellular trafficking and recycling of integrins.

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