Ezrin: A regulator of actin microfilaments in cell junctions of the rat testis

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Ezrin, radixin, moesin and merlin (ERM) proteins are highly homologous actin-binding proteins that share extensive sequence similarity with each other. These proteins tether integral membrane proteins and their cytoplasmic peripheral proteins (e.g., adaptors, nonreceptor protein kinases and phosphatases) to the microfilaments of actin-based cytoskeleton. Thus, these proteins are crucial to confer integrity of the apical membrane domain and its associated junctional complex, namely the tight junction and the adherens junction. Since ectoplasmic specialization (ES) is an F-actin-rich testis-specific anchoring junction-a highly dynamic ultrastructure in the seminiferous epithelium due to continuous transport of germ cells, in particular spermatids, across the epithelium during the epithelial cycle-it is conceivable that ERM proteins are playing an active role in these events. Although these proteins were first reported almost 25 years and have since been extensively studied in multiple epithelia/endothelia, few reports are found in the literature to examine their role in the actin filament bundles at the ES. Studies have shown that ezrin is also a constituent protein of the actin-based tunneling nanotubes (TNT) also known as intercellular bridges, which are transient cytoplasmic tubular ultrastructures that transport signals, molecules and even organelles between adjacent and distant cells in an epithelium to coordinate cell events that occur across an epithelium. Herein, we critically evaluate recent data on ERM in light of recent findings in the field in particular ezrin regarding its role in actin dynamics at the ES in the testis, illustrating additional studies are warranted to examine its physiological significance in spermatogenesis.