The association of tau-like proteins with vimentin filaments in cultured cells

Exp Cell Res. 1998 Mar 15;239(2):202-13. doi: 10.1006/excr.1997.3902.


There is increasing evidence that the different polymers that constitute the cytoskeleton are interconnected to form a three-dimensional network. The macromolecular interaction patterns that stabilize this network and its intrinsic dynamics are the basis for numerous cellular processes. Within this context, in vitro studies have pointed to the existence of specific associations between microtubules, microfilaments, and intermediate filaments. It has also been postulated that microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs) are directly involved in mediating these interactions. The interactions of tau with vimentin filaments, and its relationships with other filaments of the cytoskeletal network, were analyzed in SW-13 adenocarcinoma cells, through an integrated approach that included biochemical and immunological studies. This cell line has the advantage of presenting a wild-type clone (vim+) and a mutant clone (vim-) which is deficient in vimentin expression. We analyzed the cellular roles of tau, focusing on its interactions with vimentin filaments, within the context of its functional aspects in the organization of the cytoskeletal network. Cosedimentation experiments of microtubular protein with vimentin in cell extracts enriched in intermediate filaments, combined with studies on the direct interaction of tau with nitrocellulose-bound vimentin and analysis of tau binding to vimentin immobilized in single-strand DNA affinity columns, indicate that tau interacts with the vimentin network. These studies were confirmed by a quantitative analysis of the immunofluorescence patterns of cytoskeleton-associated tubulin, tau, and vimentin using flow cytometry. In this regard, a decrease in the levels of tau associated to the cytoskeletal network in the vim- cell mutant compared with the wild-type clones was observed. However, immunofluorescence data on SW-13 cells suggest that the absence of a structured network of vimentin in the mutant vim- cells does not affect the cytoplasmic organization formed by microtubules and actin filaments, when compared with the wild-type vim+ cells. These studies suggest that tau associates with vimentin filaments and that these interactions may play a structural role in cells containing these filaments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism*
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Intermediate Filaments / metabolism
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Neoplasm Proteins / genetics
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Vimentin / deficiency
  • Vimentin / metabolism*
  • tau Proteins / metabolism*


  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Vimentin
  • tau Proteins