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J Struct Biol. 1991 Oct;107(2):157-74.

Organization of coiled-coil molecules in native mouse keratin 1/keratin 10 intermediate filaments: evidence for alternating rows of antiparallel in-register and antiparallel staggered molecules.

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Laboratory of Skin Biology, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892.


There is considerable diversity of opinion in the literature concerning the organization of two-chain coiled-coil molecules in intermediate filaments. I have reexplored this issue using the limited proteolysis paradigm with native mouse epidermal keratin intermediate filaments (KIF), consisting of keratins 1 and 10. KIF were harvested as cytoskeletal pellets, dissociated into subfilamentous forms at pH 9.8, 9.0, or 2.6, and were subjected to limited proteolytic digestion to recover alpha-helix-enriched particles that derived from the rod domains of the constituent chains, using conditions that do not promote reorganization of the constituent protein chains or coiled-coil molecules. The multichain particles were subjected to physicochemical analyses, amino acid sequencing, and electron microscopy in order to determine their composition, structure, and organization within the intact KIF. The results predict two principal modes of alignment: neighboring molecules may be aligned in register and antiparallel or staggered and antiparallel. From known structural constraints, this permits construction of a two-dimensional surface lattice for KIF which consists of alternating antiparallel rows of in-register and staggered molecules. These data establish the level of hierarchy at which the well-known antiparallelity and staggered features of KIF are introduced. This model supports the proposals of KIF structure based on theoretical considerations of ionic interactions scores (Crewther et al., 1983). When the KIF are dissociated at extremes of pH, this structural model allows for disruption along alternate axes; the in-register antiparallel alignment is seen only when KIF are dissociated at high pH values; below pH 9, only the staggered antiparallel alignment is seen. The process of molecule realignment especially in concentrated urea solutions indicates that the staggered antiparallel alignment is the more thermodynamically stable form in solution.

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