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May 1986

Cytokeratins—Promiscuous Molecules

Arch Dermatol. 1986;122(5):594-595. doi:10.1001/archderm.1986.01660170124034

The cytokeratins are the dominant structural proteins traversing keratinocytes and other epithelial cells, and they form the major elements of their cytoskeleton. In the past decade, there has been significant progress in understanding cytokeratin biochemistry and the genes controlling the structure and synthesis of these proteins. Determining the function of cytokeratins has proved to be more elusive. To ascertain function, several approaches have been taken. One has been to inject keratincontaining cells with antibodies (both monoclonal and polyclonal) to various cytokeratins. When such experiments are performed, although there is a collapse of a portion of the cytoskeleton, the cells can still divide and move, and their organelles move and function normally. Similarly, there are epithelial cells without cytoskeletons (within the limits of sensitive means of detection) that still perform all their constitutive or housekeeping functions, such as division and metabolism. This suggests that the cytoskeleton has more elusive functions than

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