Primary sequence, secondary structure, gene structure, and assembly properties suggests that the lens-specific cytoskeletal protein filensin represents a novel class of intermediate filament protein

John F. Hess, Jodi T. Casselman, Allen P. Kong, Paul G FitzGerald

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34 Scopus citations


The ocular lens fiber cell assembles a novel cytoskeletal element, the Beaded Filament, from CP49 and filensin, two proteins expressed only in the differentiated lens fiber cell. We report the primary sequence, secondary structural analysis, gene structure and Yeast Two Hybrid interaction data for human filensin, and develop a consensus model of filensin from the human and previously reported bovine and chicken filensin sequences. This consensus model, combined with gene structure and Yeast Two Hybrid studies establish that filensin is a member of the Intermediate Filament family of proteins. Specifically, filensin exhibits (1) divergence at amino acid sequence motifs otherwise highly conserved among intermediate filament proteins, (2) a loss of 29 amino acids from the central rod domain which is unique among cytoplasmic intermediate filament proteins, (3) an absence of sequence identity with any existing class of intermediate filament protein, (4) a gene structure unique among intermediate filament family, (5) an inability to dimerize with representatives of Type I, II, and III intermediate filament proteins. Thus, at each level of analysis, we find that filensin is similar to the consensus model of intermediate filament proteins, supporting our conclusion that filensin's relatedness to the IF family is not the consequence of convergent evolution. However, filensin also shows unique or extreme distinctions from the consensus intermediate filament protein at each level of analysis, indicating that filensin constitutes a novel class of IF protein. Some of filensin's unique features are incompatible with current models of IF assembly. Analysis of filensin gene structure suggests that the 29 amino acid reduction in the central rod domain was not the result of a single splice site mutation, the mechanism suggested for the transition between nuclear lamins and cytoplasmic intermediate filament proteins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)625-644
Number of pages20
JournalExperimental Eye Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1998



  • Beaded filament
  • CP49
  • Cytoskeleton
  • Filensin
  • Intermediate filament
  • Lens

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems

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