Impaired intercellular adhesion and immature adherens junctions in merlin-deficient human primary schwannoma cells

Glia. 2008 Apr;56(5):506-15. doi: 10.1002/glia.20629.


Schwannomas that occur spontaneously or in patients with neurofibromatosis Type 2, lack both alleles for the tumor suppressor and plasma membrane-cytoskeleton linker merlin. We have shown that human primary schwannoma cells display activation of the RhoGTPases Rac1 and Cdc42 which results in highly dynamic and ongoing protrusive activity like ruffling. Ruffling is an initial and temporally limited step in the formation of intercellular contacts like adherens junctions that are based on the cadherin-catenin system. We tested if there is a connection between Rac1-induced ongoing ruffling and the maintenance, stabilization and functionality of adherens junctions and if this is of relevance in human, merlin-deficient schwannoma cells. We show intense ongoing ruffling is not limited to membranes of single human primary schwannoma cells, but occurs also in membranes of contacting cells, even when confluent. Live cell imaging shows that newly formed contacts are released after a short time, suggesting disturbed formation or stabilization of adherens junctions. Morphology, high phospho-tyrosine levels and cortactin staining indicate that adherens junctions are immature in human primary schwannoma cells, whereas they display characteristics of mature adherens junctions in human primary Schwann cells. When merlin is reintroduced, human primary schwannoma cells show only initial ruffling in contacting cells and adherens junctions appear more mature. We therefore propose that ongoing Rac-induced ruffling causes immature adherens junctions and leads to impaired, nonfunctional intercellular adhesion in aggregation assays in merlin-deficient schwannoma cells that could be an explanation for increased proliferation rates due to loss of contact inhibition or tumor development in general.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adherens Junctions / pathology*
  • Cell Adhesion / genetics
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / genetics
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / metabolism*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Gene Transfer Techniques
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neurilemmoma / metabolism*
  • Neurilemmoma / pathology*
  • Neurofibromatosis 2 / pathology
  • Neurofibromin 2 / deficiency*
  • Peripheral Nervous System Neoplasms / pathology
  • Protein Transport / genetics
  • Schwann Cells / metabolism
  • Schwann Cells / pathology
  • Time Factors
  • Tyrosine / metabolism
  • cdc42 GTP-Binding Protein / metabolism
  • rac1 GTP-Binding Protein / metabolism


  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • Neurofibromin 2
  • RAC1 protein, human
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Tyrosine
  • cdc42 GTP-Binding Protein
  • rac1 GTP-Binding Protein