Members of the Protein 4.1 superfamily have highly conserved FERM domains that link cell surface glycoproteins to the actin cytoskeleton. Within this large and constantly expanding superfamily, at least five subgroups have been proposed. Two of these subgroups, the ERM and prototypic Protein 4.1 molecules, include proteins that function as tumor suppressors. The ERM subgroup member merlin/schwannomin is inactivated in the tumor-predisposition syndrome neurofibromatosis 2 (NF2), and the prototypic 4.1 subgroup member, Protein 4.1B, has been implicated in the molecular pathogenesis of breast, lung and brain cancers. This review focuses on what is known of mechanisms of action and critical protein interactions that may mediate the unique growth inhibitory signals of these two Protein 4.1 tumor suppressors. On the basis of insights derived from studying the NF2 tumor suppressor, we propose a model for merlin growth regulation in which CD44 links growth signals from plasma membrane to the nucleus by interacting with ERM proteins and merlin.
- Tumor suppressor