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Bioarchitecture. 2011 Jan;1(1):14-20.

Plectin isoforms as organizers of intermediate filament cytoarchitecture.

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Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology; Max F. Perutz Laboratories; University of Vienna; Vienna, Austria.


Intermediate filaments (IFs) form cytoplamic and nuclear networks that provide cells with mechanical strength. Perturbation of this structural support causes cell and tissue fragility and accounts for a number of human genetic diseases. In recent years, important additional roles, nonmechanical in nature, were ascribed to IFs, including regulation of signaling pathways that control survival and growth of the cells, and vectorial processes such as protein targeting in polarized cellular settings. The cytolinker protein plectin anchors IF networks to junctional complexes, the nuclear envelope and cytoplasmic organelles and it mediates their cross talk with the actin and tubulin cytoskeleton. These functions empower plectin to wield significant influence over IF network cytoarchitecture. Moreover, the unusual diversity of plectin isoforms with different N termini and a common IF-binding (C-terminal) domain enables these isoforms to specifically associate with and thereby bridge IF networks to distinct cellular structures. Here we review the evidence for IF cytoarchitecture being controlled by specific plectin isoforms in different cell systems, including fibroblasts, endothelial cells, lens fibers, lymphocytes, myocytes, keratinocytes, neurons and astrocytes, and discuss what impact the absence of these isoforms has on IF cytoarchitecture-dependent cellular functions.

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