Cytoskeleton-associated proteins: their role as cellular integrators in the neoplastic process

Crit Rev Oncol Hematol. 1985;3(3):191-204. doi: 10.1016/s1040-8428(85)80026-3.


The cytoskeleton (CSK) of eukaryotic cells is composed of a complex interconnected network of filaments which is important in a wide variety of cellular functions including changes in cell shape, cell motility, mitosis, anchorage-dependent growth, and the localization of cellular organelles such as mitochondria, polyribosomes, and secretory granules. The various proteins comprising the cytoskeleton include actin in microfilaments, tubulin in microtubules, and the heterogeneous group of intermediate filament proteins that are associated with different cell types (keratin in epithelial cells, vimentin in fibroblasts, desmin in muscle cells, glial filament protein in glial cells, and the neurofilament protein subunits in neural tissue). Many other proteins in glial cells, and the neurofilament protein subunits in neural tissue). Many other proteins are closely associated with the cytoskeleton and influence its organization. In neoplastic cells, the expression of these different CSK proteins, especially the intermediate filament proteins, reflects their morphologic and functional differentiation. The carcinomas contain keratin; identification of individual keratin components may allow further sub-classification of carcinomas which is consistent with their tissue of origin. The sarcomas of muscle origin contain desmin. Vimentin is found primarily with cells of mesenchymal origin, but may coexist with other intermediate filament proteins in other tumors. One example is the coexistence of keratin and vimentin in tumors, such as mesotheliomas, which are derived from epithelial cells of embryonic origin. Glial fibrillary acidic protein is the most specific marker for glial tumors. Tumors of neural origin are characterized by the presence of neurofilament subunits. Therefore, analysis of CSK composition would be useful in diagnosis of clinical specimens and aid in studies of lineage relationships of neoplasms. Although no consistent differences in cytoskeletal structure between neoplastic and normal cells have been identified so far, the presence of more subtle biochemical alterations in the cytoskeletal structure of neoplastic cells that contributes to malignant behavior has not been ruled out. Since the cytoskeletal network plays an important role in cell shape and cell locomotion, which in turn are thought to be involved in growth control, invasion, and metastasis, further work is directed at identifying the various alterations in cytoskeletal architecture that may influence the malignant behavior of neoplastic cells.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actin Cytoskeleton / pathology
  • Actins / physiology
  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / metabolism
  • Carcinoma / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / physiology*
  • Cytoskeleton / pathology
  • Desmin / physiology
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / physiology
  • Glioma / metabolism
  • Granulocytes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / metabolism
  • Keratins / physiology
  • Leukemia / metabolism
  • Lymphoma / metabolism
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Microtubules / pathology
  • Molecular Weight
  • Muscles / metabolism
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Neoplasms, Nerve Tissue / metabolism
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Sarcoma / metabolism
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Vimentin / physiology


  • Actins
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Desmin
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins
  • Vimentin
  • Keratins