Ezrin, radixin, and moesin (ERM) regulate cortical morphogenesis and cell adhesion by connecting membrane adhesion receptors to the actin-based cytoskeleton. We have studied the interaction of moesin and ezrin with the vascular cell adhesion molecule (VCAM)-1 during leukocyte adhesion and transendothelial migration (TEM). VCAM-1 interacted directly with moesin and ezrin in vitro, and all of these molecules colocalized at the apical surface of endothelium. Dynamic assessment of this interaction in living cells showed that both VCAM-1 and moesin were involved in lymphoblast adhesion and spreading on the endothelium, whereas only moesin participated in TEM, following the same distribution pattern as ICAM-1. During leukocyte adhesion in static or under flow conditions, VCAM-1, ICAM-1, and activated moesin and ezrin clustered in an endothelial actin-rich docking structure that anchored and partially embraced the leukocyte containing other cytoskeletal components such as α-actinin, vinculin, and VASP. Phosphoinositides and the Rho/p160 ROCK pathway, which participate in the activation of ERM proteins, were involved in the generation and maintenance of the anchoring structure. These results provide the first characterization of an endothelial docking structure that plays a key role in the firm adhesion of leukocytes to the endothelium during inflammation.

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