Keratins, constituent proteins of intermediate filaments of epithelial cells, are phosphoproteins containing phosphoserine and phosphothreonine. We examined the in vitro phosphorylation of keratin filaments by cAMP-dependent protein kinase, protein kinase C and Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II. When rat liver keratin filaments reconstituted by type I keratin 18 (molecular mass 47 kDa; acidic type) and type II keratin 8 (molecular mass 55 kDa; basic type) in a 1:1 ratio were used as substrates, all the protein kinases phosphorylated both of the constituent proteins to a significant rate and extent, and disassembly of the keratin filament structure occurred. Kinetic analysis suggested that all these protein kinases preferentially phosphorylate keratin 8, compared to keratin 18. The amino acid residues of keratins 8 and 18 phosphorylated by cAMP-dependent protein kinase or protein kinase C were almost exclusively serine, while those phosphorylated by Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II were serine and threonine. Peptide mapping analysis indicated that these protein kinases phosphorylate keratins 8 and 18 in a different manner. These observations gave the way for in vivo studies of the role of phosphorylation in the reorganization of keratin filaments.