As a family of integral membrane proteins, tetraspanins have been functionally linked to a wide spectrum of human cancers, ranging from breast, colon, lung, ovarian, prostate, and skin carcinomas to glioblastoma. CD151 is one such prominent member of the tetraspanin family recently suggested to mediate tumor development, growth, and progression in oncogenic context- and cell lineage-dependent manners. In the current review, we summarize recent advances in mechanistic understanding of the function and signaling of integrin-associated CD151 and other tetraspanins in multiple cancer types. We also highlight emerging genetic and epigenetic evidence on the intrinsic links between tetraspanins, the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), cancer stem cells (CSCs), and the Wnt/β-catenin pathway, as well as the dynamics of exosome and cellular metabolism. Finally, we discuss the implications of the highly plastic nature and epigenetic susceptibility of CD151 expression, function, and signaling for clinical diagnosis and therapeutic intervention for human cancer.

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Published in Cancers, v. 13, issue 9, 2005.

© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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The study was supported in part by pilot project funding from National Institutes of Health COBRE grant #5P20GM121327-03, as well as support from the University of Kentucky Department of Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences (to X.H.Y.).