The interaction of vesicles produced from individual phospholipids and mixtures thereof with preformed vimentin filaments as well as the influence of these vesicles on filament assembly were investigated employing negative stain electron microscopy and sucrose density gradient equilibrium centrifugation. Liposomes with a phospholipid composition characteristic of Ehrlich ascites tumor cells were able to bind efficiently to vimentin filaments without significantly affecting their morphology at higher concentrations. However, in sucrose density gradient centrifugation partial disintegration of the filaments was observed. In addition, larger quantities of phospholipid mixture totally blocked intermediate filament (IF) formation. Using vesicles of individual phospholipids, these effects could be shown to be due to the presence of negatively charged lipid species in the phospholipid mixture. While these were highly active in preventing filament assembly and in dissociating preformed filaments, electrically uncharged phospholipids were virtually inactive. The highest efficiency was shown by phosphatidylinositol-4,5-diphosphate. These results demonstrate that a negative surface charge of liposomes is an essential prerequisite for their successful and tight association with vimentin filaments. However, the high susceptibility of these filaments to photoaffinity labeling with the membrane-penetrating reagent 1-azidopyrene in the presence of phospholipid vesicles, points to additional interactions between hydrophobic regions of both reactants. Finally, the data also suggest a direct relationship between IFs and the lipid bilayer as the active principle underlying the association of IFs with natural membranes as observed by electron and immunofluorescence microscopy.