In a rat mammary epithelial cell line, LA-7, cytokeratin bundles recognized in immunofluorescence by a monoclonal antibody (24B42) disappear after trypsinization of cultures and are gradually reformed after replating. We have followed the time course of cytokeratin filament reappearance by growing cells in low calcium medium (0.1 mM) which prevents desmosome formation, and then shifting to high calcium (1.8 mM) to start the process. By fixing the cells at various intervals and staining them in immunofluorescence for 24B42 cytokeratin and for desmosomal proteins, we found that cell to cell contact and desmosome formation are prerequisites for keratin filament formation in these cells. EGTA treatment, by disassembling desmosomes, causes the cytokeratin filaments to disappear and the 24B42 protein to pass into a soluble form in this cell line, as ascertained by 100,000 g fractionation and immunoenzymatic assay. Cycloheximide treatment also causes cytokeratin filaments to disappear, indicating that protein synthesis is needed for normal filament maintenance. In another related cell line (106A-10a) and in HeLa cells, trypsinization and EGTA exposure do not cause a complete loss of 24B42 immunofluorescence, although distinct filaments disappear, indicating the presence in these cells of different organizing centers, besides desmosomes, for cytokeratin bundle formation. LA7 cells therefore seem to have a cytokeratin system strictly dependent on the presence of desmosomes, which act as an organizing center for filament assembly. 106A-10a cells (also rich in desmosomes) and HeLa cells (showing instead a reduced number of desmosomes) have a cytokeratin system partially or totally independent from that of desmosomes, with different organizing centers.

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