Translocation of conventional protein kinases C (PKCs) to the plasma membrane leads to their specific association with transmembrane-4 superfamily (TM4SF; tetraspanin) proteins (CD9, CD53, CD81, CD82, and CD151), as demonstrated by reciprocal co-immunoprecipitation and covalent cross-linking experiments. Although formation and maintenance of TM4SF-PKC complexes are not dependent on integrins, TM4SF proteins can act as linker molecules, recruiting PKC into proximity with specific integrins. Previous studies showed that the extracellular large loop of TM4SF proteins determines integrin associations. In contrast, specificity for PKC association probably resides within cytoplasmic tails or the first two transmembrane domains of TM4SF proteins, as seen from studies with chimeric CD9 molecules. Consistent with a TM4SF linker function, only those integrins (alpha(3)beta(1), alpha(6)beta(1), and a chimeric "X3TC5" alpha(3) mutant) that associated strongly with tetraspanins were found in association with PKC. We propose that PKC-TM4SF-integrin structures represent a novel type of signaling complex. The simultaneous binding of TM4SF proteins to the extracellular domains of the integrin alpha(3) subunit and to intracellular PKC helps to explain why the integrin alpha3 extracellular domain is needed for both intracellular PKC recruitment and PKC-dependent phosphorylation of the alpha(3) integrin cytoplasmic tail.