Recent research highlights the roles of cytoskeletal intermediate filaments (IFs) and their interactions with both the cell surface and other cytoskeletal systems in maintaining cellular integrity and the mechanical properties of cytoplasm. This has been demonstrated by analyses of mutations in IF-associated proteins (IFAPs) that are involved in connecting IFs to cell surface junctions. New data also point to the role of IFAPs as molecular 'nuts and bolts' in the construction of an integrated cytoplasmic architecture. This is highlighted by the initial descriptions of a family of multifunctional molecules that are capable of bridging IFs to other cytoskeletal elements. These findings, together with the development of specific peptide inhibitors capable of disassembling IF networks in vivo, are paving the way to the identification of new cellular functions for IFs and IFAPs.