The proposed function of intermediate filaments is to provide a cell type-specific structural framework that maintains cell shape and organelle distribution and mediates signal transduction through its connections with the plasma membrane and the nucleus. Vimentin is the intermediate filament protein expressed in B lymphocytes. Immunocytochemical analysis of the high salt-stable cytoskeletons from B cells stimulated with anti-Ig revealed an increased accumulation of vimentin in the cytoskeleton compared to nontreated controls. This increased accumulation of vimentin in the cytoskeleton was manifested by the organization of vimentin into extensive filamentous arrays (EFA) as viewed in the fluorescent microscope. In contrast to the effects of anti-Ig, activation of B cells with LPS did not induce the organization of vimentin into EFA. This suggested that signals unique to anti-Ig directed EFA formation. Immunocytochemical results were verified by biochemical analysis showing that vimentin was more abundant in isolated cytoskeletons from anti-Ig activated B cells, than cytoskeletons isolated from LPS-activated B cells. These observations established a relationship between increased content of vimentin in the cytoskeleton and the formation of EFA. By testing a wide variety of activating agents, we were able to correlate increased vimentin expression in the cytoskeleton to activating agents that cross-link membrane Ig. It appeared that treatment of B cells with LPS prohibited the induction of EFA by anti-Ig because cotreatment with both anti-Ig and LPS resulted in decreased vimentin accumulation in the cytoskeleton to a level less than that in resting cells. The significance of these results with regard to B cell biology is discussed.

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