Microscopic clusters feature the composition of biochemical tetraspanin-assemblies and constitute building-blocks of tetraspanin enriched domains
Sara C. Schmidt, Annika Massenberg, Yahya Homsi, Dominik Sons, Thorsten Lang
tetraspanin, tetraspanin-enriched-microdomains, TEM
Biochemical approaches revealed that tetraspanins are multi-regulatory proteins forming a web, where they act in tetraspanin-enriched-microdomains (TEMs). A microscopic criterion differentiating between web and TEMs is lacking. Using super-resolution microcopy, we identify co-assemblies between the tetraspanins CD9 and CD81 and CD151 and CD81. CD9 assemblies contain as well the CD9/CD81-interaction partner EWI-2. Moreover, CD9 clusters are proximal to clusters of the CD81-interaction partner CD44 and CD81-/EWI-2-interacting ezrin–radixin–moesin proteins. Assemblies scatter unorganized across the cell membrane; yet, upon EWI-2 elevation, they agglomerate into densely packed arranged-crowds in a process independent from actin dynamics. In conclusion, microscopic clusters are equivalent to biochemical tetraspanin-assemblies, defining in their entirety the tetraspanin web. Cluster-agglomeration enriches tetraspanins, which makes agglomerations to a microscopic complement of TEMs. The microscopic classification of tetraspanin assemblies advances our understanding of this enigmatic protein family, whose members play roles in a plethora of cellular functions, diseases, and pathogen infections.