To examine the functions of ERM family members (ezrin, radixin, and moesin), mouse epithelial cells (MTD-1A cells) and thymoma cells (L5178Y), which coexpress all of them, were cultured in the presence of antisense phosphorothioate oligonucleotides (PONs) complementary to ERM sequences. Immunoblotting revealed that the antisense PONs selectively suppressed the expression of each member. Immunofluorescence microscopy of these ezrin, radixin, or moesin "single-suppressed" MTD-1A cells revealed that the ERM family members are colocalized at cell-cell adhesion sites, microvilli, and cleavage furrows, where actin filaments are densely associated with plasma membranes. The ezrin/radixin/moesin antisense PONs mixture induced the destruction of both cell-cell and cell-substrate adhesion, as well as the disappearance of microvilli. Ezrin or radixin antisense PONs individually affected the initial step of the formation of both cell-cell and cell-substrate adhesion, but did not affect the microvilli structures. In sharp contrast, moesin antisense PONs did not singly affect cell-cell and cell-substrate adhesion, whereas it partly affected the microvilli structures. These data indicate that ezrin and radixin can be functionally substituted, that moesin has some synergetic functional interaction with ezrin and radixin, and that these ERM family members are involved in cell-cell and cell-substrate adhesion, as well as microvilli formation.

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