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Biochim Biophys Acta. 1999 Mar 25;1423(2):M29-36.

Merlin: the neurofibromatosis 2 tumor suppressor.

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  • 1Molecular Neurogenetics Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114, USA.


In recent years, it has become clear that the ERMs occupy a crucial position as protein linkers that both respond to and participate in reorganization of membrane-cytoskeletal interactions. With the identification of new binding partners, the ERMs are also implicated in linked regulation of the activities of particular membrane proteins. Thus, they reside at a junction in a complex web of interactions that must respond to stimuli from both outside and inside the cell. As expected from its structural motifs, merlin behaves in a manner similar to the ERM proteins, but with some notable differences. Chief among these is the absence of intramolecular interaction to mask intermolecular interaction domains in isoform 2. The full range of merlin's intermolecular interactions remains to be delineated, but it can be expected from the comparison to ERMs that merlin also sits within a web of interactions that may involve multiple partners and signaling pathways, some of which it shares with the ERMs. Defining merlin's tumor suppressor function will likely require identifying those differences that are peculiarly important in the target cell types of NF2. However, the fact that inactivation of merlin in the mouse by targeted mutagenesis produces a variety of malignant tumors with a high rate of metastasis [33] suggests that merlin's suppression of tumor formation may involve different partners and pathways in different cell types and genetic backgrounds. Consequently, the disruptions due to merlin inactivation in the progression of malignant mesothelioma may represent a tumor suppressor role operating by a different pathway than that in schwannoma or meningioma.

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