Ezrin, radixin, and moesin (ERM) family proteins regulate cytoskeletal responses by tethering the plasma membrane to the underlying actin cortex. Mutations in ERM proteins lead to severe combined immunodeficiency, but the function of these proteins in T cells remains poorly defined. Using mice in which T cells lack all ERM proteins, we demonstrate a selective role for these proteins in facilitating S1P-dependent egress from lymphoid organs. ERM-deficient T cells display defective S1P-induced migration in vitro, despite normal responses to standard protein chemokines. Analysis of these defects revealed that S1P promotes a fundamentally different mode of migration than chemokines, characterized by intracellular pressurization and bleb-based motility. ERM proteins facilitate this process, controlling directional migration by limiting blebbing to the leading edge. We propose that the distinct modes of motility induced by S1P and chemokines are specialized to allow T cell migration across lymphatic barriers and through tissue stroma, respectively.

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