Purified muscle actin and mixtures of actin and actin-binding protein were examined in the transmission electron microscope after fixation, critical point drying, and rotary shadowing. The three-dimensional structure of the protein assemblies was analyzed by a computer-assisted graphic analysis applicable to generalized filament networks. This analysis yielded information concerning the frequency of filament intersections, the filament length between these intersections, the angle at which filaments branch at these intersections, and the concentration of filaments within a defined volume. Purified actin at a concentration of 1 mg/ml assembled into a uniform mass of long filaments which overlap at random angles between 0° and 90°. Actin in the presence of macrophage actin-binding protein assembled into short, straight filaments, organized in a perpendicular branching network. The distance between branch points was inversely related to the molar ratio of actin-binding protein to actin. This distance was what would be predicted if actin filaments grew at right angles off of nucleation sites on the two ends of actin-binding protein dimers, and then annealed. The results suggest that actin in combination with actin-binding protein self-assembles to form a three-dimensional network resembling the peripheral cytoskeleton of motile cells.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology