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J Biol Chem. 2004 Jun 18;279(25):26280-6. Epub 2004 Apr 19.

The NHE1 Na+/H+ exchanger recruits ezrin/radixin/moesin proteins to regulate Akt-dependent cell survival.

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Department of Medicine, Rammelkamp Center for Research, MetroHealth Medical Center Campus, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio 44109-1998, USA.


Apoptosis results in cell shrinkage and intracellular acidification, processes opposed by the ubiquitously expressed NHE1 Na(+)/H(+) exchanger. In addition to mediating Na(+)/H(+) transport, NHE1 interacts with ezrin/radixin/moesin (ERM), which tethers NHE1 to cortical actin cytoskeleton to regulate cell shape, adhesion, motility, and resistance to apoptosis. We hypothesize that apoptotic stress activates NHE1-dependent Na(+)/H(+) exchange, and NHE1-ERM interaction is required for cell survival signaling. Apoptotic stimuli induced NHE1-regulated Na(+)/H(+) transport, as demonstrated by ethyl-N-isopropyl-amiloride-inhibitable, intracellular alkalinization. Ectopic NHE1, but not NHE3, expression rescued NHE1-null cells from apoptosis induced by staurosporine or N-ethylmaleimide-stimulated KCl efflux. When cells were subjected to apoptotic stress, NHE1 and phosphorylated ERM physically associated within the cytoskeleton-enriched fraction, resulting in activation of the pro-survival kinase, Akt. NHE1-associated Akt activity and cell survival were inhibited in cells expressing ERM binding-deficient NHE1, dominant negative ezrin constructs, or ezrin mutants with defective binding to phosphoinositide 3-kinase, an upstream regulator of Akt. We conclude that NHE1 promotes cell survival by dual mechanisms: by defending cell volume and pH(i) through Na(+)/H(+) exchange and by functioning as a scaffold for recruitment of a signalplex that includes ERM, phosphoinositide 3-kinase, and Akt.

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