Aggregation of a subpopulation of vimentin filaments in cultured human skin fibroblasts derived from patients with giant axonal neuropathy

Cell Motil Cytoskeleton. 1996;33(2):115-29. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-0169(1996)33:2<115::AID-CM4>3.0.CO;2-B.


Giant axonal neuropathy (GAN) is a generalized disorder of intermediate filament networks which results in the formation of an ovoid aggregate in a large variety of cell types. We investigated the cytoskeletal organization of cultured skin fibroblasts derived from three GAN patients by indirect immunofluorescence, confocal, and electron microscopy. Whereas the organization of microfilaments seemed normal, the microtubule network appeared disorganized and tangled. The organization of the intermediate filament network, composed of vimentin, was probed with three antibodies directed against different epitopes: two vimentin-specific antibodies, a monoclonal antibody (mAb V9) and a polyclonal antibody, and a serum specific for all type III IFPs (PI serum). These experiments showed that 20% of cultured skin fibroblasts from GAN patients have a vimentin aggregate composed of densely packed filaments which coexists with a well-organized vimentin network. After depolymerization of microtubules with nocodazole, all fibroblasts from GAN patients contained a vimentin aggregate which seemed to arise from a subpopulation of vimentin filaments normally integrated in the vimentin network. Such aggregates were never observed in any condition in control fibroblasts. Moreover, the ultrastructural analysis of GAN cells revealed the presence of swollen mitochondria. We suggest that GAN may be due to a defect in a factor which stabilizes cytoplasmic intermediate filament networks, and we speculate on its identification and properties.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actin Cytoskeleton / chemistry
  • Animals
  • Axons / pathology*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cytoskeleton / chemistry
  • Electrophoresis, Gel, Two-Dimensional
  • Epitopes / immunology
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / chemistry*
  • Fibroblasts / pathology
  • Fibroblasts / ultrastructure
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Humans
  • Intermediate Filaments / chemistry
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microtubules / chemistry
  • Nocodazole / pharmacology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / metabolism
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / pathology*
  • Rabbits
  • Skin / cytology
  • Skin / innervation
  • Vimentin / analysis*
  • Vimentin / drug effects
  • Vimentin / immunology


  • Epitopes
  • Vimentin
  • Nocodazole