The Ca2+-modulated, dimeric proteins of the EF-hand (helix-loop-helix) type, S100A1 and S100B, that have been shown to inhibit microtubule (MT) protein assembly and to promote MT disassembly, interact with the type III intermediate filament (IF) subunits, desmin and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), with a stoichiometry of 2 mol of IF subunit/mol of S100A1 or S100B dimer and an affinity of 0.5-1.0 microM in the presence of a few micromolar concentrations of Ca2+. Binding of S100A1 and S100B results in inhibition of desmin and GFAP assemblies into IFs and stimulation of the disassembly of preformed desmin and GFAP IFs. S100A1 and S100B interact with a stretch of residues in the N-terminal (head) domain of desmin and GFAP, thereby blocking the head-to-tail process of IF elongation. The C-terminal extension of S100A1 (and, likely, S100B) represents a critical part of the site that recognizes desmin and GFAP. S100B is localized to IFs within cells, suggesting that it might have a role in remodeling IFs upon elevation of cytosolic Ca2+ concentration by avoiding excess IF assembly and/or promoting IF disassembly in vivo. S100A1, that is not localized to IFs, might also play a role in the regulation of IF dynamics by binding to and sequestering unassembled IF subunits. Together, these observations suggest that S100A1 and S100B may be regarded as Ca2+-dependent regulators of the state of assembly of two important elements of the cytoskeleton, IFs and MTs, and, potentially, of MT- and IF-based activities.