To address the biological role of vimentin in the context of the living organism, we have introduced a null mutation of the vimentin gene into the germ line of mice. Surprisingly, animals homozygous for this mutation developed and reproduced without an obvious phenotype. Immunoblotting, immunofluorescence, and immunogold labeling analysis confirmed the absence of vimentin and of the corresponding filament network. Furthermore, no compensatory expression of another intermediate filament could be demonstrated. While these results leave open the question of the possible role of vimentin in unusual situations or pathological conditions, they show that a conspicuous developmental and cell-specific structure that is an integral part of the cytoskeleton can be eliminated without apparent effect on mouse reproduction and development.
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