The epithelial cytoskeleton encompasses actin filaments, microtubules, and keratin intermediate filaments. They are interconnected and attached to the extracellular matrix via focal adhesions and hemidesmosomes. To study their interplay, we inhibited actin and tubulin polymerization in the human keratinocyte cell line HaCaT by latrunculin B and nocodazole, respectively. Using immunocytochemistry and time-lapse imaging of living cells, we found that inhibition of actin and tubulin polymerization alone or in combination induced keratin network re-organization albeit differently in each situation. Keratin filament network retraction towards the nucleus and formation of bundled and radial keratin filaments was most pronounced in latrunculin-B treated cells but less in doubly-treated cells and not detectable in the presence of nocodazole alone. Hemidesmosomal keratin filament anchorage was maintained in each instance, whereas focal adhesions were disassembled in the absence of actin filaments. Simultaneous inhibition of actin and tubulin polymerization, therefore, allowed us to dissect hemidesmosome-specific functions for keratin network properties. These included not only anchorage of keratin filament bundles but also nucleation of keratin filaments, which was also observed in migrating cells. The findings highlight the fundamental role of hemidesmosomal adhesion for keratin network formation and organization independent of other cytoskeletal filaments pointing to a unique mechanobiological function.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited