Tetraspanin proteins and the immune reponse

Lead researcher

A/Prof Mark Wright

Monash University

Years funded

This project explores the role of a group of molecules in controlling the development of cancers - particularly cancers of white blood cells such as leukaemia. One day these molecules may be potential targets for new therapies to treat cancer.

This grant studies a family of proteins that are known as tetraspanins. Tetraspanins are found on the surface of the white blood cells that comprise our immune systems. Genetic engineering has created mice that are incapable of producing certain tetraspanin proteins: CD37 and TSSC6.

Analyses of the immune system of the CD37 and TSS6-deficient mice suggests that tetraspanins are molecules that might be important in preventing cancer.

There are 2 ways that tetraspanins might prevent cancer:

  1. Cancer is a disease characterised by unrestrained cell growth. CD37 and TSSC6 inhibit the growth of one particular type of white blood cell: The T lymphocyte. Unrestrained growth of T lymphocytes can results in leukaemia and lymphoma. This grant is seeking to understand the biochemical pathways regulated by CD37 and TSSC6 that control cell growth.
  2. The immune system can detect tumors and kill them in a process known as immune surveillance. Mice that lack CD37 and TSSC6 may have a defect in immune surveillance, as these mice make a poor immune response to tumors. Our laboratory has identified that one particular type of white blood cell, the dendritic cell, might be the component of the immune system that is defective in mice that lack CD37 and TSSC6.

Funding Body

Cancer Council Research Grant


$96,093 in 2009, $98,706 in 2010, $100,000 in 2011