Smoler M, Coceano G, Testa I, Bruno L, Levi V
Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Cell Res 1867 (8) 118726 [2020-08-00; online 2020-04-19]
The cytoskeleton is a complex network of interconnected biopolymers intimately involved in the generation and transmission of forces. Several mechanical properties of microtubules and actin filaments have been extensively explored in cells. In contrast, intermediate filaments (IFs) received comparatively less attention despite their central role in defining cell shape, motility and adhesion during physiological processes as well as in tumor progression. Here, we explored relevant biophysical properties of vimentin IFs in living cells combining confocal microscopy and a filament tracking routine that allows localizing filaments with ~20 nm precision. A Fourier-based analysis showed that IFs curvatures followed a thermal-like behavior characterized by an apparent persistence length (lp*) similar to that measured in aqueous solution. Additionally, we determined that certain perturbations of the cytoskeleton affect lp* and the lateral mobility of IFs as assessed in cells in which either the microtubule dynamic instability was reduced or actin filaments were partially depolymerized. Our results provide relevant clues on how vimentin IFs mechanically couple with microtubules and actin filaments in cells and support a role of this network in the response to mechanical stress.