The Dynamic and Motile Properties of Intermediate Filaments

Brian T. Helfand*, Lynne Chang, Robert D. Goldman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


For many years, cytoplasmic intermediate filaments (IFs) were considered to be stable cytoskeletal elements contributing primarily to the maintenance of the structural and mechanical integrity of cells. However, recent studies of living cells have revealed that IFs and their precursors possess a remarkably wide array of dynamic and motile properties. These properties are in large part due to interactions with molecular motors such as conventional kinesin, cytoplasmic dynein, and myosin. The association between IFs and motors appears to account for much of the well-documented molecular cross talk between IFs and the other major cytoskeletal elements, microtubules, and actin-containing microfilaments. Furthermore, the associations with molecular motors are also responsible for the high-speed, targeted delivery of nonfilamentous IF protein cargo to specific regions of the cytoplasm where they polymerize into IFs. This review considers the functional implications of the motile properties of IFs and discusses the potential relationships between malfunctions in these motile activities and human diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)445-467
Number of pages23
JournalAnnual Review of Cell and Developmental Biology
StatePublished - 2003


  • Dynein
  • Kinesin
  • Motility
  • Neurofilaments
  • Vimentin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology

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