Intermediate filament-ubiquitin diseases: implications for cell sanitization

Biochem Soc Symp. 1989;55:193-201.


The molecular pathology of chronic degenerative disease is not understood. Generally there must be two related, but opposing, processes: the direct deleterious effects of the pathogenic insult which can be chemical or viral and a cellular cytoprotective response to the insult. We have recently shown that there is a previously unsuspected link between the intracellular inclusions seen in some major chronic degenerative diseases: the inclusions contain ubiquitin immunoreactivity. The conditions include Parkinson's disease, motor neurone disease, Alzheimer's disease and alcoholic liver disease as well as astrocytomas and a myopathy. Protein ubiquitination is considered a signal for extra-lysosomal protein degradation although ubiquitin-protein conjugation may have several other important functions. Intermediate filaments are a component of some of the inclusions in diseased cells; we have previously reported that they are involved in protein sequestration for degradation by lysosomally mediated autophagy. Therefore, intermediate-filament-containing ubiquitinated inclusions may be hallmarks of cellular attempts to eliminate pathogenic insults by activating protein degradation mechanisms. Ubiquitinated inclusions could also be a hallmark of viral infections: they are in polio-virus-infected anterior horn neurones and Epstein-Barr-transformed lymphoblastoid cells. Some of the clinical observations can be reproduced experimentally in tissue culture cells. The implications of the combined clinical and experimental observations for cell sanitization and protein catabolism will be discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / etiology
  • Animals
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Inclusion Bodies / metabolism
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / metabolism
  • Intermediate Filaments / metabolism*
  • Neuromuscular Diseases / etiology
  • Parkinson Disease / etiology
  • Ubiquitins / immunology*
  • Virus Diseases / etiology


  • Intermediate Filament Proteins
  • Ubiquitins