Structural and regulatory functions of keratins

Exp Cell Res. 2007 Jun 10;313(10):2021-32. doi: 10.1016/j.yexcr.2007.03.005. Epub 2007 Mar 15.


The diversity of epithelial functions is reflected by the expression of distinct keratin pairs that are responsible to protect epithelial cells against mechanical stress and to act as signaling platforms. The keratin cytoskeleton integrates these functions by forming a supracellular scaffold that connects at desmosomal cell-cell adhesions. Multiple human diseases and murine knockouts in which the integrity of this system is destroyed testify to its importance as a mechanical stabilizer in certain epithelia. Yet, surprisingly little is known about the precise mechanisms responsible for assembly and disease pathology. In addition to these structural aspects of keratin function, experimental evidence accumulating in recent years has led to a much more complex view of the keratin cytoskeleton. Distinct keratins emerge as highly dynamic scaffolds in different settings and contribute to cell size determination, translation control, proliferation, cell type-specific organelle transport, malignant transformation and various stress responses. All of these properties are controlled by highly complex patterns of phosphorylation and molecular associations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Polarity / physiology
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / metabolism
  • Cytoskeleton / genetics
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism*
  • Cytoskeleton / pathology
  • Desmosomes / genetics
  • Desmosomes / metabolism*
  • Desmosomes / pathology
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Epithelial Cells / pathology
  • Humans
  • Intermediate Filaments / genetics
  • Intermediate Filaments / metabolism*
  • Intermediate Filaments / pathology
  • Keratins / genetics
  • Keratins / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Stress, Mechanical


  • Keratins