Tetraspanin microdomains in immune cell signalling and malignant disease

Mark D Wright, Gregory William Moseley, Annemiek B van Spriel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

133 Citations (Scopus)


A contemporary goal of researchers in leucocyte signalling has been to uncover how cells physically organize and compartmentalize signalling molecules into efficient, regulated signalling networks. This work has revealed important roles of membrane microdomains that are characterized by their distinctive protein and lipid compositions. Recent studies have demonstrated that besides typical cholesterol- and glycosphingolipid-enriched 'rafts', leucocyte membranes are equipped with a different type of microdomain, made up of tetraspanin proteins. Tetraspanin proteins are involved in the organization of tetraspanin-enriched microdomains by virtue of their capacity to specifically associate with key molecules, including integrins, leucocyte receptors and signalling proteins. The aspects of leucocyte function influenced by tetraspanin microdomains include adhesion, proliferation and antigen presentation. However, the mechanisms by which tetraspanin complexes link to intracellular signalling pathways, are still largely unknown. This review discusses how tetraspanin microdomains might function to regulate signalling in lymphoid and myeloid cells, and how they relate to lipid rafts. In addition, we discuss new insights into the role of tetraspanins in malignant disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)533-542
Number of pages10
JournalTissue Antigens
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2004


  • Leucocyte
  • Microdomain
  • Signal transduction
  • Tetraspanin
  • Tumour

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