14-3-3 is a ubiquitous protein family that interacts with several signal transduction kinases. We show that 14-3-3 proteins associate with keratin intermediate filament polypeptides 8 and 18 (K8/18) that are expressed in simple-type epithelia. The association is stoichiometrically significant (> or = one 14-3-3 molecule/keratin tetramer), occurs preferentially with K18, and is phosphorylation- and cell cycle-dependent in that it occurs during S/G2/M phases of the cell cycle when keratins become hyperphosphorylated. Binding of phospho-K8/18 to 14-3-3 can be reconstituted in vitro using recombinant 14-3-3 or using total cellular cytosol. Phosphatase treatment results in dissociation of 14-3-3, and dephosphorylation of phospho-K8/18 prevents reconstitution of the binding. Three cellular keratin subpopulations were analyzed that showed parallel gradients of keratin phosphorylation and 14-3-3 binding. Incubation of 14-3-3 with keratins during or after in vitro filament assembly results in sequestering of additional soluble keratin, only in cases when the keratins were hyperphosphorylated. Our results demonstrate a stoichiometrically significant cell cycle- and phosphorylation-regulated binding of 14-3-3 proteins to K18 and in vitro evidence of a simple epithelial keratin sequestering role for 14-3-3 proteins.

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