Merlin regulates signaling events at the nexus of development and cancer

Academic Article


  • Background: In this review, we describe how the cytoskeletal protein Merlin, encoded by the Neurofibromin 2 (NF2) gene, orchestrates developmental signaling to ensure normal ontogeny, and we discuss how Merlin deficiency leads to aberrant activation of developmental pathways that enable tumor development and malignant progression. Main body: Parallels between embryonic development and cancer have underscored the activation of developmental signaling pathways. Hippo, WNT/β-catenin, TGF-β, receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK), Notch, and Hedgehog pathways are key players in normal developmental biology. Unrestrained activity or loss of activity of these pathways causes adverse effects in developing tissues manifesting as developmental syndromes. Interestingly, these detrimental events also impact differentiated and functional tissues. By promoting cell proliferation, migration, and stem-cell like phenotypes, deregulated activity of these pathways promotes carcinogenesis and cancer progression. The NF2 gene product, Merlin, is a tumor suppressor classically known for its ability to induce contact-dependent growth inhibition. Merlin plays a role in different stages of an organism development, ranging from embryonic to mature states. While homozygous deletion of Nf2 in murine embryos causes embryonic lethality, Merlin loss in adult tissue is implicated in Neurofibromatosis type 2 disorder and cancer. These manifestations, cumulatively, are reminiscent of dysregulated developmental signaling. Conclusion: Understanding the molecular and cellular repercussions of Merlin loss provides fundamental insights into the etiology of developmental disorders and cancer and has the potential, in the long term, to identify new therapeutic strategies. [MediaObject not available: See fulltext.] Graphical abstract: [Figure not available: See fulltext.]
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  • Mota M; Shevde LA
  • Volume

  • 18
  • Issue

  • 1