Merlin is a negative regulator of human melanoma growth

Lucas B. Murray, Ying Ka Ingar Lau, Qin Yu

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29 Scopus citations


Merlin is encoded by the neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) gene and is a member of the Band 4.1 protein family. This protein acts as a linker that connects cell surface proteins to the actin cytoskeleton. Defects caused by mutations of the NF2 gene give rise to NF2 disease, which is generally characterized by the formation of bilateral vestibular schwannomas and, to a lesser extent, meningiomas and ependymomas. In addition to these tumor types, NF2 is mutated and/or merlin expression is reduced or lost in numerous non-NF2 associated tumors, including melanoma. However, the role of merlin in human melanoma growth and the mechanism underlying its effect are currently unknown. In the present study, we show that merlin knockdown enhances melanoma cell proliferation, migration, and invasion in vitro and that decreased merlin expression promotes subcutaneous melanoma growth in immunocompromised mice. Concordantly, we find that increased expression of merlin in a metastatic melanoma cell line reduced their in vitro migration and proliferation, and diminished their ability to grow in an anchorage independent manner. Increased merlin expression also inhibits in vivo growth of these melanoma cells. Lastly, we demonstrate that higher merlin levels in human melanoma cells promote the H2O2-induced activation of MST1/2 Ser/Thr kinases, which are known tumor suppressors in the Hippo signaling pathway. Taken together, these results provide for the first time evidence that merlin negatively regulates human melanoma growth, and that loss of merlin, or impaired merlin function, results in an opposite effect. In addition, we show that increased merlin expression leads to enhanced activation of the MTS1/2 kinases, implying the potential roles of MST1/2 in mediating the anti-melanoma effects of merlin.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere43295
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
StatePublished - 17 Aug 2012


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