The neurofibromatosis 2 (NF2) tumor suppressor protein merlin, or schwannomin, functions as a negative growth regulator such that inactivating mutations in Nf2 predispose humans to tumors. In addition, merlin has a critical role during embryonic development. Nf2-deficlent mice die early during embryogenesis, with defects in gastrulation and extraembryonic tissues. To investigate the function of Nf2/merlin during ernbryonic development, we first identified the homologous Nf2 gene in chicken (cNf2) and examined the distribution of chicken merlin (c-merlin) during myogenesis. cNf2 encoded a full-length mRNA of 1,770 nucleotides and a protein of 589 residues. C-merlin shared high sequence homology and common protein motifs with vertebrate and Drosophila merlins. In addition, cNF2 functions as a negative growth regulator similar to human and Drosophila merlin in vitro. In vivo, c-merlin was expressed diffusely in the forming dermomyotome but down-regulated in migratory muscle precursors in the forelimb. As muscle formed in the limb, c-merlin expression was up-regulated. As an initial examination of c-merlin function during myogenesis, c-merlin was ectopically expressed in muscle precursors and the effects on muscle development were examined. We show that ectopic merlin expression reduces the proliferation of muscle precursors as well as their ability to migrate effectively in limb mesoderm. Collectively, these results demonstrate that c-merlin is developmentally regulated in migrating and differentiating myogenic cells, where it functions as a negative regulator of both muscle growth and motility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)541-554
Number of pages14
JournalDevelopmental Dynamics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2004


  • ERM proteins
  • Merlin
  • Muscle precursors
  • Neurofibromatosis 2
  • Schwannomin


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