CD81 participates in a variety of important cellular processes such as membrane organization, protein trafficking, cellular fusion and cell–cell interactions. In the immune system, CD81 regulates immune synapse, receptor clustering and signaling; it also mediates adaptive and innate immune suppression. CD81 is a gateway in hepatocytes for pathogens such as hepatitis C virus and Plasmodium; it also confers susceptibility to Listeria infection. These diverse biological roles are due to the tendency of CD81 to associate with other tetraspanins and with cell-specific partner proteins, which provide the cells with a signaling platform. CD81 has also been shown to regulate cell migration and invasion, and has therefore been implicated in cancer progression. Indeed, we have recently shown that CD81 contributes to tumor growth and metastasis. CD81 is expressed in most types of cancer, including breast, lung, prostate, melanoma, brain cancer and lymphoma, and the overexpression or down-regulation of this molecule has been correlated with either good or bad prognosis. Here, we discuss the role of CD81 in cancer and its potential therapeutic use as a tumor target.

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