Abnormal intermediate filament organization alters mitochondrial motility in giant axonal neuropathy fibroblasts

Mol Biol Cell. 2016 Feb 15;27(4):608-16. doi: 10.1091/mbc.E15-09-0627. Epub 2015 Dec 23.


Giant axonal neuropathy (GAN) is a rare disease caused by mutations in the GAN gene, which encodes gigaxonin, an E3 ligase adapter that targets intermediate filament (IF) proteins for degradation in numerous cell types, including neurons and fibroblasts. The cellular hallmark of GAN pathology is the formation of large aggregates and bundles of IFs. In this study, we show that both the distribution and motility of mitochondria are altered in GAN fibroblasts and this is attributable to their association with vimentin IF aggregates and bundles. Transient expression of wild-type gigaxonin in GAN fibroblasts reduces the number of IF aggregates and bundles, restoring mitochondrial motility. Conversely, silencing the expression of gigaxonin in control fibroblasts leads to changes in IF organization similar to that of GAN patient fibroblasts and a coincident loss of mitochondrial motility. The inhibition of mitochondrial motility in GAN fibroblasts is not due to a global inhibition of organelle translocation, as lysosome motility is normal. Our findings demonstrate that it is the pathological changes in IF organization that cause the loss of mitochondrial motility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / genetics
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / metabolism*
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Giant Axonal Neuropathy / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Intermediate Filaments / metabolism*
  • Lysosomes / metabolism
  • Microtubules / metabolism
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Mitochondrial Dynamics
  • Mutation
  • Primary Cell Culture
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism
  • Vimentin / metabolism*


  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • GAN protein, human
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Vimentin