Of the three major cytoskeletal filament systems, the intermediate filaments are the least understood. Since they differ fundamentally from the actin- and microtubule-based networks by their lack of polarity, it has remained a mystery how and where these principally endless filaments are formed. Using a recently established epithelial cell system in which fluorescently labeled intermediate filaments of the cytokeratin type can be monitored in living cells, we address these issues. By multidimensional time-lapse fluorescence microscopy, we examine de novo intermediate filament network formation from non-filamentous material at the end of mitosis and show that it mirrors disassembly. It is demonstrated that filament formation is initiated from the cell cortex without focal preference after cytokinesis. Furthermore, it is shown that this process is dependent on energy, on the integrity of the actin filament network and the microtubule system, and that it can be inhibited by the tyrosine phosphatase inhibitor pervanadate. Based on these observations, a two-step working model is proposed involving (1) interactions within the planar cortical layer acting as an organizing center forming a two-dimensional network and (2) subsequent radial dynamics facilitating the formation of a mature three-dimensional network.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.