Tetraspanin-enriched microdomains and hepatocellular carcinoma progression

Antonio Mazzocca, Maryam Tahmasebi Birgani, Carlo Sabbà, Vinicio Carloni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As in many tumors, heterogeneity within the cell population is one of the main features of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Heterogeneity results from the ability of tumor to produce multiple subpopulations of cells with diverse genetic, biochemical and immunological characteristics. Little is known about how heterogeneity emerges and how it is maintained. Fluctuations in single cells can be masked or completely misrepresented when cell populations are analyzed. It has become exceedingly apparent that the utility of measurement based on the analysis of bulk specimens is limited by intra-tumor genetic and epigenetic heterogeneity, as characteristics of the most abundant cell type might not necessarily predict the properties of cell populations. Yet, such non-uniformities often unveil molecular patterns that can represent mechanisms of tumor progression. Interestingly, variability among single cells in a population may arise from different responses to intrinsic and extrinsic perturbations mainly mediated by the plasma membrane. The association of certain proteins, including tetraspanins, and lipids in specific location on the plasma membrane constitutes specialized structure called tetraspanin-enriched microdomains (TEMs). TEMs organization in cancer may reveal essential clues for understanding pathogenic mechanisms underlying cancer progression. Along these lines, TEMs and HCC progression represent a valuable paradigm for gaining a deeper understanding of such mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-29
Number of pages7
JournalCancer Letters
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Aug 28 2014


  • Cancer heterogeneity
  • Cancer progression
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Metastasis
  • Tetraspanins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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