The dissociation, migration, and remodeling of epithelial monolayers induced by hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) entail modifications in cell adhesion and in the actin cytoskeleton through unknown mechanisms. Here we report that ezrin, a membrane-cytoskeleton linker, is crucial to HGF-mediated morphogenesis in a polarized kidney-derived epithelial cell line, LLC-PK1. Ezrin is a substrate for the tyrosine kinase HGF receptor both in vitro and in vivo. HGF stimulation causes enrichment of ezrin recovered in the detergent-insoluble cytoskeleton fraction. Overproduction of wild-type ezrin, by stable transfection in LLC-PK1 cells, enhances cell migration and tubulogenesis induced by HGF stimulation. Overproduction of a truncated variant of ezrin causes mislocalization of endogenous ezrin from microvilli into lateral surfaces. This is concomitant with altered cell shape, characterized by loss of microvilli and cell flattening. Moreover, the truncated variant of ezrin impairs the morphogenic and motogenic response to HGF, thus suggesting a dominant-negative mechanism of action. Site-directed mutagenesis of ezrin codons Y145 and Y353 to phenylalanine does not affect the localization of ezrin at microvilli, but perturbs the motogenic and morphogenic responses to HGF. These results provide evidence that ezrin displays activities that can control cell shape and signaling.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology