A possible mechanism for ezrin to establish epithelial cell polarity
J. G. Forte
Ezrin is an important membrane/actin cytoskeleton linker protein, especially in epithelia. Ezrin has two important binding domains: an NH2-terminal region that binds to plasma membrane and a COOH-terminal region that binds to F-actin only after a conformational activation by phosphorylation at Thr567 of ezrin. The present experiments were undertaken to investigate the detailed cellular changes in the time course of expression of ezrin-T567 mutants (nonphosphorylatable T567A and permanent phospho-mimic T567D) in parietal cells and to assess ezrin distribution and its influence on the elaborate membrane recruitment processes of these cells. T567A mutant and wild-type (WT) ezrin were consistently localized to the apical plasma membrane, even with overexpression. On the other hand, T567D went first to apical membrane at early times and low expression levels, then accumulated mainly at the basal surface after 24 h. Overexpression of WT or T567A led to incorporation of internal membranes to apical vacuoles, while overexpression of T567D led to large incorporation of apical and intracellular membranes (including H-K-ATPase) to the basal surface. Differences in polar distribution of ezrin suggest a role for the linker protein in promoting formation and plasticity of membrane surface projections, forming the basis for a novel theory for ezrin as an organizer and regulator of membrane recruitment. A model simulating the cellular distribution of ezrin and its associated membrane- and F-actin-binding forms is given to predict redistributions observed with phosphorylation and mutant overexpression, and it can easily be modified as more specific information regarding binding constants and specific sites becomes available.