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Eur J Immunol. 2003 Sep;33(9):2479-89.

A physical and functional link between cholesterol and tetraspanins.

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Inserm U268, Institut André Lwoff, Université Paris XI, Villejuif, France.


By interacting with each others, the tetraspanins are thought to assemble a network of molecular interactions, the tetraspanin web. These tetraspanin/tetraspanin interactions involve in part the palmitoylation of the proteins. We show that tetraspanins interact with cholesterol as indicated by the precipitation of tetraspanin/tetraspanin complexes by digitonin, a cholesterol-precipitating reagent, and the labeling of the tetraspanins CD9, CD81 and CD82 with a photoactivatable cholesterol in vivo. Cholesterol may participate to the interaction of tetraspanins with each other since digitonin-precipitation of tetraspanins was correlated with their mutual interaction, and because these interactions were disrupted following cholesterol depletion by methyl-beta-cyclodextrin (MbetaCD) treatment, or cholesterol sequestration by saponin. A mutant CD9 molecule lacking all palmitoylation sites was not precipitated by digitonin under conditions in which wild-type CD9 was precipitated, indicating a role of palmitoylation for the interaction with cholesterol. Finally, upon ligation of tetraspanins on the surface of a lymphoid B cell line, the tyrosine phosphorylation of several proteins, including the vav nucleotide exchange factor, was inhibited when cells were pretreated with MbetaCD, and increased when they were treated with MbetaCD/cholesterol complexes. Thus, there is a physical and functional link between tetraspanins and cholesterol.

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