The ERM (ezrin, radixin, and moesin) family of proteins and the related protein merlin participate in scaffolding and signaling events at the cell cortex. The proteins share an N-terminal FERM [band four-point-one (4.1) ERM] domain composed of three subdomains (F1, F2, and F3) with binding sites for short linear peptide motifs. By screening the FERM domains of the ERMs and merlin against a phage library that displays peptides representing the intrinsically disordered regions of the human proteome, we identified a large number of novel ligands. We determined the affinities for the ERM and merlin FERM domains interacting with 18 peptides and validated interactions with full-length proteins through pull-down experiments. The majority of the peptides contained an apparent Yx[FILV] motif; others show alternative motifs. We defined distinct binding sites for two types of similar but distinct binding motifs (YxV and FYDF) using a combination of Rosetta FlexPepDock computational peptide docking protocols and mutational analysis. We provide a detailed molecular understanding of how the two types of peptides with distinct motifs bind to different sites on the moesin FERM phosphotyrosine binding-like subdomain and uncover interdependencies between the different types of ligands. The study expands the motif-based interactomes of the ERMs and merlin and suggests that the FERM domain acts as a switchable interaction hub.
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© 2023 The Authors. Published by American Chemical Society.