How are intermediate filaments assembled? 2018-02-06T11:11:47+00:00

How are intermediate filaments assembled?

The soluble subunit for creating intermediate filaments is a tetramer. The tetramer is created from monomers in a stepwise fashion (as reviewed in [1]). First, two monomers associate via their central domains to form parallel helical coils around each other. This parallel dimer then associates with another parallel dimer in an antiparallel arrangement to form a staggered tetramer. The lateral association of eight tetramers results in the formation of a unit-length filaments (ULF). Two ULFs are able to anneal in an end-to-end fashion (i.e. longitudinally) to form a thick filament, approximately 16 nm in diameter. Further end-to-end annealing of ULFs results in filament elongation, which is followed by radial compaction to achieve the final intermediate filament diameter [2][3].


Intermediate filaments are built from monomers that associate with each other form dimers. Pairs of dimers then associate in an anti-parallel fashion to form staggered tetramers. Lateral associations between eight tetramers form unit-length filaments, which are able to anneal to each other, end-to-end, to form intermediate filaments.

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  1. Herrmann H, Strelkov SV, Burkhard P, and Aebi U. Intermediate filaments: primary determinants of cell architecture and plasticity. J. Clin. Invest. 2009; 119(7):1772-83. [PMID: 19587452]
  2. Colakoğlu G, and Brown A. Intermediate filaments exchange subunits along their length and elongate by end-to-end annealing. J. Cell Biol. 2009; 185(5):769-77. [PMID: 19468066]
  3. Kirmse R, Portet S, Mücke N, Aebi U, Herrmann H, and Langowski J. A quantitative kinetic model for the in vitro assembly of intermediate filaments from tetrameric vimentin. J. Biol. Chem. 2007; 282(25):18563-72. [PMID: 17403663]