Intermediate filaments in Caenorhabditis elegans

Cell Motil Cytoskeleton. 2009 Oct;66(10):852-64. doi: 10.1002/cm.20372.


Intermediate filaments (IFs) make up one of the three major fibrous cytoskeletal systems in metazoans. Numerous IF polypeptides are synthesized in cell type-specific combinations suggesting specialized functions. The review concentrates on IFs in the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans which carries great promise to elucidate the still unresolved mechanisms of IF assembly into complex networks and to determine IF function in a living organism. In contrast to Drosophila melanogaster, which lacks cytoplasmic IFs altogether, the nematode genome contains 11 genes coding for cytoplasmic IFs and only a single gene for a nuclear lamin. Its cytoplasmic IFs are expressed in developmentally and spatially defined patterns. As an example we present the case of the intestinal IFs which are abundant in the mechanically resilient endotube, a prominent feature of the C. elegans intestinal terminal web region. This IF-rich structure brings together all three cytoskeletal filaments that are integrated into a coherent entity by the C. elegans apical junction (CeAJ) thereby completely surrounding and stabilizing the intestinal lumen with its characteristic brush border. Concepts on the developmental establishment of the endotube in relation to polarization and its function for maintenance of epithelial integrity are discussed. Furthermore, possible connections of the cytoplasmic cytoskeleton to the nuclear lamin IFs and the importance of these links for nuclear positioning are summarized.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / metabolism
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / metabolism*
  • Intermediate Filaments / metabolism*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Intestines / cytology
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins