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‘Merlin’ is a matchmaker, not a magician: The protein ‘arranges’ other protein interactions to control growth and preven

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Posted September 12, 2013
Johns Hopkins researchers have figured out the specific job of a protein long implicated in tumors of the nervous system. Reporting on a new study described in the Sept. 12 issue of the journal Cell, they detail what they call the “matchmaking” activities of a fruit fly protein called Merlin, whose human counterpart, NF2, is a tumor suppressor protein known to cause neurofibromatosis type II when mutated.
'Merlin' is a matchmaker, not a magician
Without Merlin around, Warts (green) is located mostly in the watery interior of the cell (left). When Merlin is there, Warts is localized to the outer envelope of the cell, where Merlin resides (right). Credit: Duojia Pan, courtesy of Cell Press

Merlin (which stands for Moesin-Ezrin-Radixin-Like Protein) was already known to influence the function of another protein, dubbed Hippo, but the particulars of that relationship were unclear. “Now we’ve shown how Merlin and Hippo interact to begin a chain of events that controls the growth of many tissues,” says Duojia Pan, Ph.D., professor of molecular biology and genetics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. “This insight is important because not only do malfunctions in that chain of events affect growth and development, they can also lead to cancer and other tumors.”

Ten years ago, Pan and his research group discovered Hippo, a gene responsible for keeping body parts proportional to the overall size of the fruit fly. They called it Hippo because the absence of the gene, and the protein it codes for, causes fruit flies to develop unusually large and furrowed organs. Since then, they have been working to understand Hippo and all of the proteins in its network that help control organ size.

 

Read more at: Phys.org

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