Flotillins 1 and 2 are two ubiquitous, highly conserved homologous proteins that assemble to form heterotetramers at the cytoplasmic face of the plasma membrane in cholesterol- and sphingolipid-enriched domains. Flotillin heterotetramers can assemble into large oligomers to form molecular scaffolds that regulate the clustering of at the plasma membrane and activity of several receptors. Moreover, flotillins are upregulated in many invasive carcinomas and also in sarcoma, and this is associated with poor prognosis and metastasis formation. When upregulated, flotillins promote plasma membrane invagination and induce an endocytic pathway that allows the targeting of cargo proteins in the late endosomal compartment in which flotillins accumulate. These late endosomes are not degradative, and participate in the recycling and secretion of protein cargos. The cargos of this Upregulated Flotillin-Induced Trafficking (UFIT) pathway include molecules involved in signaling, adhesion, and extracellular matrix remodeling, thus favoring the acquisition of an invasive cellular behavior leading to metastasis formation. Thus, flotillin presence from the plasma membrane to the late endosomal compartment influences the activity, and even modifies the trafficking and fate of key protein cargos, favoring the development of diseases, for instance tumors. This review summarizes the current knowledge on flotillins and their role in cancer development focusing on their function in cellular membrane remodeling and vesicular trafficking regulation.
Keywords: Cancer; Flotillins; Signaling; Vesicular trafficking.