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Biol Cell. 1997 May;89(2):85-97.

The importance of intermediate filaments in the adaptation of tissues to mechanical stress: evidence from gene knockout studies.

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Laboratoire de Biologie Moléculaire de la Différentiation de l'Université Paris 7, France.


Research over the past few years on the function of intermediate filaments in cells in culture has not produced convincing results, because the key role of intermediate filaments is within tissues and at certain periods of development. Only recently the technique of gene knockout has been used to examine intermediate filaments in mice and has provided the first evidence that intermediate filaments are directly involved in cell resilience and the maintenance of tissue integrity. Knockout of the gene encoding keratin K8 is lethal in the embryo, and results in hepatic or intestinal lesions, while knockout of the K14 or K10 genes leads to rupture of stratified epithelia. Knockout of the gene encoding desmin causes the rupture of skeletal and cardiac muscle, and collapse of blood vessel walls. Knockout of the gene coding for GFAP leads to a loss of cerebral white matter, and knockout of the gene coding for vimentin causes degeneration of the cerebellar Purkinje cells. The results reveal the lack of compensation by another intermediate filament. Tissues without intermediate filaments fall apart; they are mechanically unstable, unable to resist physical stress, and this leads to cell degeneration. By maintaining the shape and plasticity of the cell, the intermediate filament network acts as an integrator within the cell space. The state of mechanical force imposed on a tissue or a cell can alter the shape of certain elements of the cytoskeleton and thus participate to the control of cell functions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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