By virtue of their multiple interactions with partner proteins and due to their strong propensity to multimerize, tetraspanins create scaffolds in membranes, recruiting or excluding specific proteins needed for particular cellular processes. We and others have shown that (i) HIV-1 assembles at, and buds through, membrane areas that are enriched in tetraspanins CD9, CD63, CD81 and CD82, and (ii) the presence of these proteins at exit sites and in viral particles inhibits virus-induced membrane fusion. In the present paper, I review these findings and briefly discuss the results of our ongoing investigations that are aimed at elucidating when and how tetraspanins regulate this fusion process and how such control affects virus spreading. Finally, I give a preview of studies that we have initiated more recently and which aim to delineate exactly when CD81 functions during the replication of another enveloped RNA virus: influenza virus.

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