The phosphorylation of the intermediate filament protein vimentin was examined under in vitro conditions. Cell cytosol and Triton-insoluble cytoskeleton preparations from nonmitotic and mitotically selected mouse L-929 cells exhibited vimentin kinase activity that is apparently cAMP and Ca2+ independent. The level of vimentin kinase activity was greater in preparations from mitotically selected cells than nonmitotic cells. Addition of Ca2+ to mitotic cytosol decreased net vimentin phosphorylation. Dephosphorylation experiments indicated that there is phosphatase activity in these preparations which is stimulated by addition of Ca2+. Fractionation of cytosol from nonmitotic cells on DEAE-Sephacel and phosphocellulose revealed a single major vimentin kinase activity (peak I). Fractionation of cytosol from mitotically selected cells yielded a similar activity (peak I) and an additional vimentin kinase activity (peak II) that was not found in nonmitotic preparations. Based on substrate specificity and lack of inhibition to characteristic inhibitors, the semipurified peak I and II vimentin kinase activities appear to be cAMP-independent enzymes that are distinct from casein kinases I and II. Phosphopeptide mapping studies indicated that both peak I and peak II vimentin kinases phosphorylate tryptic peptides in the NH2-terminal region of vimentin that are phosphorylated in intact cells. Electron microscopic examination of reconstituted vimentin filaments phosphorylated with both semipurified kinases indicated that phosphorylation induced filament disassembly. These experiments indicate that the increased phosphorylation of vimentin during mitosis may be catalyzed by a discrete cAMP-independent protein kinase. In addition, preparations from mitotic cells exhibited a Ca2+-stimulated phosphatase activity, suggesting that Ca2+ may play a regulatory role in vimentin dephosphorylation during mitosis.

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