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Traffic. 2011 Apr;12(4):421-37. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0854.2011.01158.x. Epub 2011 Feb 8.

Ezrin promotes actin assembly at the phagosome membrane and regulates phago-lysosomal fusion.

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Department of Cell Biology and Biophysics, European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg, Germany.


Phagosome maturation is defined as the process by which phagosomes fuse sequentially with endosomes and lysosomes to acquire an acidic pH and hydrolases that degrade ingested particles. While the essential role of actin cytoskeleton remodeling during particle internalization is well established, its role during the later stages of phagosome maturation remains largely unknown. We have previously shown that purified mature phagosomes assemble F-actin at their membrane, and that the ezrin-radixin-moesin (ERM) proteins ezrin and moesin participate in this process. Moreover, we provided evidence that actin assembly on purified phagosomes stimulates their fusion with late endocytic compartments in vitro. In this study, we further investigated the role of ezrin in phagosome maturation. We engineered a structurally open form of ezrin and demonstrated that ezrin binds directly to the actin assembly promoting factor N-WASP (Neural Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome Protein) by its FERM domain. Using a cell-free system, we found that ezrin stimulates F-actin assembly on purified phagosomes by recruiting the N-WASP-Arp2/3 machinery. Accordingly, we showed that the down-regulation of ezrin activity in macrophages by a dominant-negative approach caused reduced F-actin accumulation on maturing phagosomes. Furthermore, using fluorescence and electron microscopy, we found that ezrin is required for the efficient fusion between phagosomes and lysosomes. Live-cell imaging analysis supported the notion that ezrin is necessary for the fusogenic process itself, promoting the transfer of the lysosome content into the phagosomal lumen.

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