The merlin-ERM (ezrin, radixin, moesin) family of proteins plays a central role in linking the cellular membranes to the cortical actin cytoskeleton. Merlin regulates contact inhibition and is an integral part of cell-cell junctions, while ERM proteins, ezrin, radixin and moesin, assist in the formation and maintenance of specialized plasma membrane structures and membrane vesicle structures. These two protein families share a common evolutionary history, having arisen and separated via gene duplication near the origin of metazoa. During approximately 0.5 billion years of evolution, the merlin and ERM family proteins have maintained both sequence and structural conservation to an extraordinary level. Comparing crystal structures of merlin-ERM proteins and their complexes, a picture emerges of the merlin-ERM proteins acting as switchable interaction hubs, assembling protein complexes on cellular membranes and linking them to the actin cytoskeleton. Given the high level of structural conservation between the merlin and ERM family proteins we speculate that they may function together.
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- FERM domain