About the book
Cytokeratins are the most diverse and, arguably least understood components of the cytoskeleton. Comprising the intermediate filaments of epithelial cells, cytokeratins have roles in tissue integrity, in signaling, attachment to a substrate, and providing scaffolding to cytoplasmic organelles including, presumably, the nucleus. Essentially insoluble filamentous structures, these assemblies disappear during mitosis, to re-assemble immediately afterward. Beyond the confines of epithelial cells, keratins provide the bulk material to the epidermal stratum corneum, hair, nails and other rigid elements of the integument. Cytokeratins are obligate heteropolymers, consisting of equal amounts of Type I, acidic, and Type II neutral to basic proteins. In mammals, the Type I keratin genes are clustered in a single chromosomal region, and so are the Type II keratin genes. Different cytokeratins are characteristic molecular marker for specific epithelia, e.g., epidermis, cornea, tongue, hair etc. Mutations in keratin genes have dominant inheritance, in accordance with their obligate polymerization, and can cause severe disorders. Lately, first successes in correcting the mutant phenotype have been achieved using DNA-targeted therapies. Recent progress in studies of these fascinating proteins warrants a recap at this moment, which this volume aims to provide.