Tetraspanins in cellular immunity

Biochem Soc Trans. 2011 Apr;39(2):506-11. doi: 10.1042/BST0390506.


Tetraspanins are a superfamily of integral membrane proteins involved in the organization of microdomains that consist of both cell membrane proteins and cytoplasmic signalling molecules. These microdomains are important in regulating molecular recognition at the cell surface and subsequent signal transduction processes central to the generation of an efficient immune response. Tetraspanins, both immune-cell-specific, such as CD37, and ubiquitously expressed, such as CD81, have been shown to be imp-ortant in both innate and adaptive cellular immunity. This is via their molecular interaction with important immune cell-surface molecules such as antigen-presenting MHC proteins, T-cell co-receptors CD4 and CD8, as well as cytoplasmic molecules such as Lck and PKC (protein kinase C). Moreover, the generation of tetraspanin-deficient mice has enabled the study of these proteins in immunity. A variety of tetraspanins have a role in the regulation of pattern recognition, antigen presentation and T-cell proliferation. Recent studies have also begun to elucidate roles for tetraspanins in macrophages, NK cells (natural killer cells) and granulocytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen Presentation / genetics
  • Antigen Presentation / physiology
  • Antigens, CD / genetics
  • Antigens, CD / immunology
  • Antigens, CD / metabolism
  • Antigens, CD / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular / genetics
  • Immunity, Cellular / physiology*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology
  • Killer Cells, Natural / metabolism
  • Killer Cells, Natural / physiology
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes / physiology


  • Antigens, CD