Keratins, the largest subgroup of intermediate filament (IF) proteins, form a network of 10-nm filaments built from type I/II heterodimers in epithelial cells. A major function of keratin IFs is to protect epithelial cells from mechanical stress. Like filamentous actin, keratin IFs must be cross-linked in vitro to achieve the high level of mechanical resilience characteristic of live cells. Keratins 5 and 14 (K5 and K14), the main pairing occurring in the basal progenitor layer of epidermis and related epithelia, can readily self-organize into large filament bundles in vitro and in vivo. Here, we show that filament self-organization is mediated by multivalent interactions involving distinct regions in K5 and K14 proteins. Selforganization is determined independently of polymerization into 10-nm filaments, but involves specific type I-type II keratin complementarity. We propose that self-organization is a key determinant of the structural support function of keratin IFs in vivo.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology