Ezrin Is Essential for Epithelial Organization and Villus Morphogenesis in the Developing Intestine

Dev Cell. 2004 Jun;6(6):855-64. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2004.05.007.


Ezrin, Radixin, and Moesin (the ERM proteins) supply regulated linkage between membrane proteins and the actin cytoskeleton. The study of mammalian ERM proteins has been hampered by presumed functional overlap. We have found that Ezrin, the only ERM detected in epithelial cells of the developing intestine, provides an essential role in configuring the mouse intestinal epithelium. Surprisingly, Ezrin is not absolutely required for the formation of brush border microvilli or for the establishment or maintenance of epithelial polarity. Instead, Ezrin organizes the apical terminal web region, which is critical for the poorly understood process of de novo lumen formation and expansion during villus morphogenesis. Our data also suggest that Ezrin controls the localization and/or function of certain apical membrane proteins that support normal intestinal function. These in vivo studies highlight the critical function of Ezrin in the formation of a multicellular epithelium rather than an individual epithelial cell.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Cell Communication / genetics
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics*
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Epithelial Cells / ultrastructure
  • Failure to Thrive / genetics*
  • Failure to Thrive / pathology
  • Fetus
  • Intestinal Mucosa / abnormalities*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microvilli / metabolism
  • Microvilli / ultrastructure
  • Organogenesis / genetics*
  • Phenotype
  • Phosphoproteins / deficiency
  • Phosphoproteins / genetics
  • Phosphoproteins / physiology*


  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Phosphoproteins
  • ezrin