Microtubule-mediated transport of the tumor-suppressor protein Merlin and its mutants

Lorena B. Benseñor, Kari Barlan, Sarah E. Rice, Richard G. Fehon, Vladimir I. Gelfand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) tumor-suppressor protein Merlin is a member of the ERM family of proteins that links the cytoskeleton to the plasma membrane. Inhumans,mutations in the NF2 genecause neurofibromatosis type-2 (NF2), a cancer syndrome characterized by the development of tumors of the nervous system. Previous reports have suggested that the subcellular distribution of Merlin is critical to its function, and that several NF2 mutants that lack tumor-suppressor activity present improper localization. Herewe used a Drosophila cell culturemodel to study the distribution and mechanism of intracellular transport of Merlin and its mutants. We found that Drosophila Merlin formed cytoplasmic particles that move bidirectionally along microtubules. A single NF2-causing amino acid substitution in the FERM domain dramatically inhibited Merlin particle movement. Surprisingly, the presence of this immotile Merlin mutant also inhibited trafficking of the WT protein. Analysis of the movement of WT protein using RNAi and pull-downs showed that Merlin particles are associated with and moved by microtubule motors (kinesin-1 and cytoplasmic dynein), and that binding of motors and movement is regulated by Merlin phosphorylation. Inhibition of Merlin transport by expression of the dominant-negative mutant or depletion of kinesin-1 results in increased nuclear accumulation of the transcriptional coactivator Yorkie. These results demonstrate the requirement of microtubule-dependent transport for Merlin function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7311-7316
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number16
StatePublished - Apr 20 2010


  • Dynein
  • Intracellular transport
  • Kinesin
  • Microtubules
  • Neurofibromatosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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