Self-organization of keratin intermediate filaments into cross-linked networks

Chang Hun Lee, Pierre A. Coulombe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Keratins, the largest subgroup of intermediate filament (IF) proteins, form a network of 10-nm filaments built from type I/II heterodimers in epithelial cells. A major function of keratin IFs is to protect epithelial cells from mechanical stress. Like filamentous actin, keratin IFs must be cross-linked in vitro to achieve the high level of mechanical resilience characteristic of live cells. Keratins 5 and 14 (K5 and K14), the main pairing occurring in the basal progenitor layer of epidermis and related epithelia, can readily self-organize into large filament bundles in vitro and in vivo. Here, we show that filament self-organization is mediated by multivalent interactions involving distinct regions in K5 and K14 proteins. Selforganization is determined independently of polymerization into 10-nm filaments, but involves specific type I-type II keratin complementarity. We propose that self-organization is a key determinant of the structural support function of keratin IFs in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)409-421
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Cell Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 10 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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