Stability of the tumor suppressor merlin depends on its ability to bind paxillin LD3 and associate with ?1 integrin and actin at the plasma membrane.
ABSTRACT: The NF2 gene encodes a tumor suppressor protein known as merlin or schwannomin whose loss of function causes Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF2). NF2 is characterized by the development of benign tumors, predominantly schwannomas, in the peripheral nervous system. Merlin links plasma membrane receptors with the actin cytoskeleton and its targeting to the plasma membrane depends on direct binding to the paxillin scaffold protein. Exon 2 of NF2, an exon mutated in NF2 patients and deleted in a mouse model of NF2, encodes the merlin paxillin binding domain (PBD1). Here, we sought to determine the role of PBD1 in regulation of merlin stability and association with plasma membrane receptors and the actin cytoskeleton in Schwann cells. Using a fluorescence-based pulse-chase technique, we measured the half-life of Halo-tagged merlin variants carrying PBD1, exon 2, and exons 2 and 3 deletions in transiently transfected Schwann cells. We found that PBD1 alone was necessary and sufficient to increase merlin's half-life from approximately three to eleven hours. Merlin lacking PBD1 did not form a complex with surface ?1 integrins or associate with the actin cytoskeleton. In addition, direct binding studies using purified merlin and paxillin domains revealed that merlin directly binds paxillin LD3 (leucine-aspartate 3) domain as well as the LD4 and LD5 domains. Together these results demonstrate that a direct interaction between merlin PBD1 and the paxillin LD3-5 domains targets merlin to the plasma membrane where it is stabilized by its association with surface ?1 integrins and cortical actin.
Project description:Neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) is a genetic syndrome that predisposes individuals to multiple benign tumors of the central and peripheral nervous systems, including vestibular schwannomas. Currently, there are no FDA approved drug therapies for NF2. Loss of function of merlin encoded by the NF2 tumor suppressor gene leads to activation of multiple mitogenic signaling cascades, including platelet-derived growth factor receptor (PDGFR) and SRC in Schwann cells. The goal of this study was to determine whether ponatinib, an FDA-approved ABL/SRC inhibitor, reduced proliferation and/or survival of merlin-deficient human Schwann cells (HSC). Merlin-deficient HSC had higher levels of phosphorylated PDGFR?/?, and SRC than merlin-expressing HSC. A similar phosphorylation pattern was observed in phospho-protein arrays of human vestibular schwannoma samples compared to normal HSC. Ponatinib reduced merlin-deficient HSC viability in a dose-dependent manner by decreasing phosphorylation of PDGFR?/?, AKT, p70S6K, MEK1/2, ERK1/2 and STAT3. These changes were associated with decreased cyclin D1 and increased p27Kip1levels, leading to a G1 cell-cycle arrest as assessed by Western blotting and flow cytometry. Ponatinib did not modulate ABL, SRC, focal adhesion kinase (FAK), or paxillin phosphorylation levels. These results suggest that ponatinib is a potential therapeutic agent for NF2-associated schwannomas and warrants further in vivo investigation.
Project description:The Neurofibromatosis type 2 gene encodes the Nf2/merlin tumor suppressor protein that is responsible for the regulation of cell proliferation. Once activated, Nf2/merlin modulates adhesive signaling pathways and thereby inhibits cell growth. Nf2/merlin controls oncogenic gene expression by modulating the Hippo pathway. By responding to several physical and biochemical stimuli, Hippo signaling determines contact inhibition of proliferation as well as organ size. The large tumor suppressor (LATS) serine/threonine-protein kinase is the key enzyme in the highly conserved kinase cascade that negatively regulates the activity and localization of the transcriptional coactivators Yes-associated protein (YAP) and its paralogue transcriptional coactivator with PDZ-binding motif (TAZ). Nf2/merlin belongs to the band 4.1, ezrin, radixin, moesin (FERM) gene family that links the actin cytoskeleton to adherens junctions, remodels adherens junctions during epithelial morphogenesis and maintains organized apical surfaces on the plasma cell membrane. Nf2/merlin and ERM proteins have a globular <i>N</i>-terminal cloverleaf head domain, the FERM domain, that binds to the plasma membrane, a central α-helical domain, and a tail domain that binds to its head domain. Here we present the high-resolution crystal structure of Nf2/merlin bound to LATS1 which shows that LATS1 binding to Nf2/merlin displaces the Nf2/merlin tail domain and causes an allosteric shift in the Nf2/merlin α-helix that extends from its FERM domain. This is consistent with the fact that full-length Nf2/merlin binds LATS1 ~10-fold weaker compared to LATS1 binding to the Nf2/merlin-PIP<sub>2</sub> complex. Our data increase our understanding of Nf2/merlin biology by providing mechanistic insights into the Hippo pathway that are relevant to several diseases in particular oncogenic features that are associated with cancers.
Project description:Neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) is caused by mutations in the NF2 gene that encodes a tumor-suppressor protein called merlin. NF2 is characterized by formation of multiple schwannomas, meningiomas and ependymomas. Merlin loss-of-function is associated with increased activity of Rac and p21-activated kinases (PAKs) and deregulation of cytoskeletal organization. LIM domain kinases (LIMK1 and 2) are substrate for Cdc42/Rac-PAK and modulate actin dynamics by phosphorylating cofilin at serine-3. This modification inactivates the actin severing and depolymerizing activity of cofilin. LIMKs also translocate into the nucleus and regulate cell cycle progression. Significantly, LIMKs are overexpressed in several tumor types, including skin, breast, lung, liver and prostate. Here we report that mouse Schwann cells (MSCs) in which merlin function is lost as a result of Nf2 exon2 deletion (Nf2(?Ex2)) exhibited increased levels of LIMK1, LIMK2 and active phospho-Thr508/505-LIMK1/2, as well as phospho-Ser3-cofilin, compared with wild-type normal MSCs. Similarly, levels of LIMK1 and 2 total protein and active phosphorylated forms were elevated in human vestibular schwannomas compared with normal human Schwann cells (SCs). Reintroduction of wild-type NF2 into Nf2(?Ex2) MSC reduced LIMK1 and LIMK2 levels. We show that pharmacological inhibition of LIMK with BMS-5 decreased the viability of Nf2(?Ex2) MSCs in a dose-dependent manner, but did not affect viability of control MSCs. Similarly, LIMK knockdown decreased viability of Nf2(?Ex2) MSCs. The decreased viability of Nf2(?Ex2) MSCs was not due to caspase-dependent or -independent apoptosis, but rather due to inhibition of cell cycle progression as evidenced by accumulation of cells in G2/M phase. Inhibition of LIMKs arrests cells in early mitosis by decreasing aurora A activation. Our results suggest that LIMKs are potential drug targets for NF2 and tumors associated with merlin deficiency.
Project description:Although Merlin/NF2 was discovered two decades ago as a tumor suppressor underlying Neurofibromatosis type II, its precise molecular mechanism remains poorly understood. Recent studies in Drosophila revealed a potential link between Merlin and the Hippo pathway by placing Merlin genetically upstream of the kinase Hpo/Mst. In contrast to the commonly depicted linear model of Merlin functioning through Hpo/Mst, here we show that in both Drosophila and mammals, Merlin promotes downstream Hippo signaling without activating the intrinsic kinase activity of Hpo/Mst. Instead, Merlin directly binds and recruits the effector kinase Wts/Lats to the plasma membrane. Membrane recruitment, in turn, promotes Wts phosphorylation by the Hpo-Sav kinase complex. We further show that disruption of the actin cytoskeleton promotes Merlin-Wts interactions, which implicates Merlin in actin-mediated regulation of Hippo signaling. Our findings elucidate an important molecular function of Merlin and highlight the plasma membrane as a critical subcellular compartment for Hippo signal transduction.
Project description:Neurofibromatosis type 2 patients develop schwannomas, meningiomas and ependymomas resulting from mutations in the tumor suppressor gene, NF2, encoding a membrane-cytoskeleton adapter protein called merlin. Merlin regulates contact inhibition of growth and controls the availability of growth factor receptors at the cell surface. We tested if microtubule-based vesicular trafficking might be a mechanism by which merlin acts. We found that schwannoma cells, containing merlin mutations and constitutive activation of the Rho/Rac family of GTPases, had decreased intracellular vesicular trafficking relative to normal human Schwann cells. In Nf2-/- mouse Schwann (SC4) cells, re-expression of merlin as well as inhibition of Rac or its effector kinases, MLK and p38(SAPK), each increased the velocity of Rab6 positive exocytic vesicles. Conversely, an activated Rac mutant decreased Rab6 vesicle velocity. Vesicle motility assays in isolated squid axoplasm further demonstrated that both mutant merlin and active Rac specifically reduce anterograde microtubule-based transport of vesicles dependent upon the activity of p38(SAPK) kinase. Taken together, our data suggest loss of merlin results in the Rac-dependent decrease of anterograde trafficking of exocytic vesicles, representing a possible mechanism controlling the concentration of growth factor receptors at the cell surface.
Project description:The NF2 tumor suppressor gene encodes an intracellular membrane-associated protein, called merlin, which belongs to the band 4.1 family of cytoskeleton-associated proteins that link cell surface glycoproteins to the actin cytoskeleton. Merlin suppresses phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt signaling by directly binding and inhibiting the stimulatory activity of PIKE-L on PI3K. Akt feeds back and phosphorylates merlin and provokes its polyubiquitination and degradation. Here, we show that Akt phosphorylation and PI(3,4,5)P(3) binding mediate the tumor-suppressive activity of merlin. The extreme NH(2) terminus of merlin directly interacts with phosphatidylinositols, for which the unfolded conformation is required. Moreover, Akt phosphorylation enhances merlin binding affinity to phosphatidylinositols and inhibits its proapoptotic actions. Furthermore, Akt phosphorylation and phosphatidylinositols increase merlin binding to CD44. Epidermal growth factor treatment and Akt phosphorylation provoke merlin to aggregate in the ruffled plasma membrane and promote cell migration. Thus, these results suggest that PI3K signaling regulates the tumor-suppressive activity of merlin via both Akt phosphorylation and phosphatidylinositol lipids binding to merlin.
Project description:The merlin-1 tumor suppressor is encoded by the Neurofibromatosis-2 (Nf2) gene and loss-of-function Nf2 mutations lead to nervous system tumors in man and to several tumor types in mice. Merlin is an ERM (ezrin, radixin, moesin) family cytoskeletal protein that interacts with other ERM proteins and with components of cell-cell adherens junctions (AJs). Merlin stabilizes the links of AJs to the actin cytoskeleton. Thus, its loss destabilizes AJs, promoting cell migration and invasion, which in Nf2(+/-) mice leads to highly metastatic tumors. Paradoxically, the "closed" conformation of merlin-1, where its N-terminal four-point-one, ezrin, radixin, moesin (FERM) domain binds to its C-terminal tail domain, directs its tumor suppressor functions. Here we report the crystal structure of the human merlin-1 head domain when crystallized in the presence of its tail domain. Remarkably, unlike other ERM head-tail interactions, this structure suggests that binding of the tail provokes dimerization and dynamic movement and unfurling of the F2 motif of the FERM domain. We conclude the "closed" tumor suppressor conformer of merlin-1 is in fact an "open" dimer whose functions are disabled by Nf2 mutations that disrupt this architecture.
Project description:Neurofibromatosis 2 (NF2) is an inherited cancer syndrome in which affected individuals develop nervous system tumors, including schwannomas, meningiomas, and ependymomas. The NF2 protein merlin (or schwannomin) is a member of the Band 4.1 superfamily of proteins, which serve as linkers between transmembrane proteins and the actin cytoskeleton. In addition to mutational inactivation of the NF2 gene in NF2-associated tumors, mutations and loss of merlin expression have also been reported in other types of cancers. In the present study, we show that merlin expression is dramatically reduced in human malignant gliomas and that reexpression of functional merlin dramatically inhibits both subcutaneous and intracranial growth of human glioma cells in mice. We further show that merlin reexpression inhibits glioma cell proliferation and promotes apoptosis in vivo. Using microarray analysis, we identify altered expression of specific molecules that play key roles in cell proliferation, survival, and motility. These merlin-induced changes of gene expression were confirmed by real-time quantitative PCR, Western blotting, and functional assays. These results indicate that reexpression of merlin correlates with activation of mammalian sterile 20-like 1/2-large tumor suppressor 2 signaling pathway and inhibition of canonical and noncanonical Wnt signals. Collectively, our results show that merlin is a potent inhibitor of high-grade human glioma.
Project description:Interest in members of the protein 4.1 super-family, which includes the ezrin-radixin-moesin (ERM) group, has been stimulated recently by the discovery that the human neurofibromatosis 2 (NF2) tumor suppressor gene encodes an ERM-like protein, merlin. Although many proteins in this family are thought to act by linking the actin-based cytoskeleton to transmembrane proteins, the cellular functions of merlin have not been defined. To investigate the cellular and developmental functions of these proteins, we have identified and characterized Drosophila homologues of moesin (Dmoesin) and of the NF2 tumor suppressor merlin (Dmerlin). Using specific antibodies, we show that although these proteins are frequently coexpressed in developing tissues, they display distinct subcellular localizations. While Dmoesin is observed in continuous association with the plasma membrane, as is typical for an ERM family protein, Dmerlin is found in punctuate structures at the membrane and in the cytoplasm. Investigation of Dmerlin cultured cells demonstrates that it is associated with endocytic compartments. As a result of these studies, we propose that the merlin protein has unique functions in the cell which differ from those of other ERM family members.
Project description:The neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) tumor suppressor protein Merlin functions as a negative regulator of cell growth and actin dynamics in different cell types amongst which Schwann cells have been extensively studied. In contrast, the presence and the role of Merlin in oligodendrocytes, the myelin forming cells within the CNS, have not been elucidated. In this work, we demonstrate that Merlin immunoreactivity was broadly distributed in the white matter throughout the central nervous system. Following Merlin expression during development in the cerebellum, Merlin could be detected in the cerebellar white matter tract at early postnatal stages as shown by its co-localization with Olig2-positive cells as well as in adult brain sections where it was aligned with myelin basic protein containing fibers. This suggests that Merlin is expressed in immature and mature oligodendrocytes. Expression levels of Merlin were low in oligodendrocytes as compared to astrocytes and neurons throughout development. Expression of Merlin in oligodendroglia was further supported by its identification in either immortalized cell lines of oligodendroglial origin or in primary oligodendrocyte cultures. In these cultures, the two main splice variants of Nf2 could be detected. Merlin was localized in clusters within the nuclei and in the cytoplasm. Overexpressing Merlin in oligodendrocyte cell lines strengthened reduced impedance in XCELLigence measurements and Ki67 stainings in cultures over time. In addition, the initiation and elongation of cellular projections were reduced by Merlin overexpression. Consistently, cell migration was retarded in scratch assays done on Nf2-transfected oligodendrocyte cell lines. These data suggest that Merlin actively modulates process outgrowth and migration in oligodendrocytes.