Intermediate filaments (IFs) are involved in many important physiological functions, such as the distribution of organelles, signal transduction, cell polarity and gene regulation. However, little information exists on the structure of the IF networks performing these functions. We have clarified the existence of seven kinds of IF networks in the cytoplasm of diverse polarized cells: an apex network just under the terminal web, a peripheral network lying just beneath the cell membrane, a granule-associated network surrounding a mass of secretory granules, a Golgi-associated network surrounding the Golgi apparatus, a radial network locating from the perinuclear region to the specific area of the cell membrane, a juxtanuclear network surrounding the nucleus, and an entire cytoplasmic network. In this review, we describe these seven kinds of IF networks and discuss their biological roles.
Keywords: cell polarity; intermediate filament network; neural stem cell; organelle distribution; signal transduction.