Giant axonal neuropathy (GAN) results from autosomal recessive mutations (gan-) that affect cytoskeletal organization; specifically, intermediate filaments (IFs) are found collapsed into massive bundles in a variety of different cell types. We studied the gan- fibroblast lines WG321 and WG139 derived from different GAN patients. Although previous studies implied that the gan- IF phenotype was constitutive, we find that it is conditional. That is, when cells were grown under the permissive condition of medium containing over 2% fetal calf serum, most cells had normal IF organization. IF bundles formed when gan- cells were transferred to the nonpermissive condition of low (0.1%) serum. Microtubule organization appeared normal in the presence or absence of serum. The effect of serum starvation was largely blocked or reversed by the addition of BSA to the culture media. We found no evidence that the gan- phenotype depends upon progress through the cell cycle. We discuss the possible role of serum effects in the etiology of GAN and speculate as to the molecular nature of the gan- defect.

This content is only available as a PDF.