Vimentin is a class III intermediate filament protein widely expressed in the developing embryo and in cells of mesenchymal origin in the adult. Vimentin knock-out mice develop and reproduce without any obvious defect. This is an unexpected finding in view of the high degree of conservation of the vimentin gene among vertebrates. However, it does not exclude the possibility of a role for vimentin in pathological conditions, like tumorigenesis. To address this question directly, we have used a teratocarcinoma model involving the injection of ES cells into syngeneic mice. ES cells lacking vimentin were generated from 129/Sv Vim-/- mice with high efficiency. The absence of vimentin did not affect ES cell morphology, viability or growth rate in vitro. Tumours were induced by subcutaneous injection of either Vim-/- or Vim+/+ ES cells into Vim+/+ and Vim-/- mice, in order to analyse the effect of the absence of vimentin in either the tumorigenic cells or the host mice. No significant differences were found in either tumour incidence, size or vascularization of teratocarcinomas obtained with all possible combinations. Vim-/- ES-derived tumours showed the same cellular composition typical of teratocarcinomas induced by wild-type ES cells together with a very similar apoptotic pattern. Taken together, these results demonstrate that in this model vimentin is not essential for efficient tumour growth and differentiation in vivo.

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