Shoshana Levy Lab In the Division of Oncology

Shoshana Levy, PhD: Research Areas


Our research is aimed at understanding the mechanism of action of tetraspanins. This is a multi-gene family, which has shown remarkable conservation over evolution and whose members are expressed in mammals, insects and nematodes. Tetraspanins are also widely expressed in most cell types, forming molecular associations with different proteins in the different cell types.

The tetraspanin CD81 was originally identified in our laboratory as a receptor that controls cell growth. To better define the role of CD81 we created CD81-deficient mice. These mice have impairments in their immune, nervous and reproductive systems.

CD81 has been implicated in the pathogenesis of two major human diseases: hepatitis C virus (HCV) and malaria. CD81 is the putative receptor for HCV, CD81 is also required for infection by malaria. Plasmodium sporozoites mature in the liver to merozoites, the stage that infects red blood cells, this maturation step is CD81-dependent.

Recent Studies

CD81 is a widely expressed and evolutionary conserved molecule that associates with different proteins in different cell types (ref/abstract). We hypothesize that CD81 affects a multitude of cell functions because it is essential for the spatial orientation of its associated/partner proteins in membranes. To determine its role we generated CD81 knockout (cd81-/-) mice.

Lack of CD81 affects cell-cell interactions in multiple systems

CD81 is a putative receptor for hepatitis C virus (HCV)

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection affects an estimated 160 million people worldwide. It is a major cause of chronic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma and of mixed cryoglobulinemia, a B lymphocyte proliferative disorder. The life cycle of HCV is currently not known. A major difficulty in the study of HCV is that the virus infects only humans and chimpanzees and cannot be propagated in small animal models. Moreover, HCV cannot be readily grown in tissue culture. Cloning of the virus enabled the production of the recombinant envelope glycoprotein E2, which in turn, was shown to bind to human CD81. My laboratory has been engaged in HCV related research since the identification of CD81 as the putative receptor of this virus.


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