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Histochem Cell Biol. 2008 Jun;129(6):735-49. doi: 10.1007/s00418-008-0431-x. Epub 2008 Apr 29.

Intermediate filament cytoskeleton of the liver in health and disease.

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Department of Internal Medicine I, University of Ulm, Robert-Koch-Strabe 8, 89081, Ulm, Germany.


Intermediate filaments (IFs) represent the largest cytoskeletal gene family comprising approximately 70 genes expressed in tissue specific manner. In addition to scaffolding function, they form complex signaling platforms and interact with various kinases, adaptor, and apoptotic proteins. IFs are established cytoprotectants and IF variants are associated with >30 human diseases. Furthermore, IF-containing inclusion bodies are characteristic features of several neurodegenerative, muscular, and other disorders. Acidic (type I) and basic keratins (type II) build obligatory type I and type II heteropolymers and are expressed in epithelial cells. Adult hepatocytes contain K8 and K18 as their only cytoplasmic IF pair, whereas cholangiocytes express K7 and K19 in addition. K8/K18-deficient animals exhibit a marked susceptibility to various toxic agents and Fas-induced apoptosis. In humans, K8/K18 variants predispose to development of end-stage liver disease and acute liver failure (ALF). K8/K18 variants also associate with development of liver fibrosis in patients with chronic hepatitis C. Mallory-Denk bodies (MDBs) are protein aggregates consisting of ubiquitinated K8/K18, chaperones and sequestosome1/p62 (p62) as their major constituents. MDBs are found in various liver diseases including alcoholic and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis and can be formed in mice by feeding hepatotoxic substances griseofulvin and 3,5-diethoxycarbonyl-1,4-dihydrocollidine (DDC). MDBs also arise in cell culture after transfection with K8/K18, ubiquitin, and p62. Major factors that determine MDB formation in vivo are the type of stress (with oxidative stress as a major player), the extent of stress-induced protein misfolding and resulting chaperone, proteasome and autophagy overload, keratin 8 excess, transglutaminase activation with transamidation of keratin 8 and p62 upregulation.

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