Filaggrin is an intermediate filament (IF)-associated protein that aggregates keratin IFs in vitro and is thought to perform a similar function during the terminal differentiation of epidermal keratinocytes. To further explore the role of filaggrin in the cytoskeletal rearrangement that accompanies epidermal differentiation, we generated keratinocyte cell lines that express human filaggrin using a tetracycline-inducible promoter system. Filaggrin expression resulted in reduced keratinocyte proliferation and caused an alteration in cell cycle distribution consistent with a post-G1 phase arrest. Keratin filament distribution was disrupted in filaggrin-expressing lines, while the organization of actin microfilaments and microtubules was more mildly affected. Evidence for direct interaction of filaggrin and keratin IFs was seen by overlay assays of GFP-filaggrin with keratin proteins in vitro and by filamentous filaggrin distribution in cells with low levels of expression. Cells expressing moderate to high levels of filaggrin showed a rounded cell morphology, loss of cell-cell adhesion, and compacted cytoplasm. There was also partial or complete loss of the desmosomal proteins desmoplakin, plakoglobin, and desmogleins from cell-cell borders, while the distribution of the adherens junction protein E-cadherin was not affected. No alterations in keratin cytoskeleton, desmosomal protein distribution, or cell shape were observed in control cell lines expressing beta-galactosidase. Filaggrin altered the cell shape and disrupted the actin filament distribution in IF-deficient SW13 cells, demonstrating that filaggrin can affect cell morphology independent of the presence of a cytoplasmic IF network. These studies demonstrate that filaggrin, in addition to its known effects on IF organization, can affect the distribution of other cytoskeletal elements including actin microfilaments, which can occur in the absence of a cytoplasmic IF network. Further, filaggrin can disrupt the distribution of desmosome proteins, suggesting an additional role(s) for this protein in the cytoskeletal and desmosomal reorganization that occurs at the granular to cornified cell transition during terminal differentiation of epidermal keratinocytes.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.