Intermediate filament dynamics: What we can see now and why it matters

Bioessays. 2016 Mar;38(3):232-43. doi: 10.1002/bies.201500142. Epub 2016 Jan 13.


The mechanical properties of vertebrate cells are largely defined by the system of intermediate filaments (IF). As part of a dense network, IF polymers are constantly rearranged and relocalized in the cell to fulfill their duty as cells change shape, migrate, or divide. With the development of new imaging technologies, such as photoconvertible proteins and super-resolution microscopy, a new appreciation for the complexity of IF dynamics has emerged. This review highlights new findings about the transport of IF, the remodeling of filaments by a process of severing and re-annealing, and the subunit exchange that occurs between filament precursors and a soluble pool of IF. We will also discuss the unique dynamic features of the keratin IF network. Finally, we will speculate about how the dynamic properties of IF are related to their functions.

Keywords: dynamics; keratin; neurofilament; severing and re-annealing; subunit exchange; transport; vimentin.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / physiology
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Intermediate Filaments / ultrastructure*
  • Protein Multimerization


  • Cytoskeletal Proteins