Human SW-13 cells express the intermediate filament protein vimentin in a mosaic pattern (Hedberg, K. K. and Chen, L. B. (1986). Exp. Cell Res. 163, 509–517). We have isolated SW-13 clones that do (vim+) or do not (vim-) synthesize vimentin as analyzed using anti-intermediate filament immunofluorescence, electron microscopy and two-dimensional gel analysis of detergent-extracted preparations. Vimentin is the only cytoplasmic intermediate filament protein present in the vim+ cells, and the vim- cells do not contain any detectable cytoplasmic intermediate filament system. The presence or absence of intermediate filaments did not observably affect the distribution of mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum, microtubules or actin stress fibers when these structures were visualized by fluorescence microscopy. However, electron microscopy and anti-lamin A/C immunofluorescence studies showed that nuclear morphology in vim- cells was frequently characterized by large folds or invaginations, while vim+ cells had a more regular or smooth nuclear shape. When vim- cells were transfected with a mouse vimentin expression plasmid, the synthesis of a mouse vimentin filament network restored the smooth nuclear morphology characteristic of vim+ cells. Conversely, when vim+ cells were transfected with a carboxy-terminally truncated mutant vimentin, expression of the mutant protein disrupted the organization of the endogenous vimentin filaments and resulted in nuclei with a prominently invaginated morphology. These results indicated that in SW-13 cells the vimentin filament system affects the shape of the nucleus.

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