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J Cell Biol. 1989 Dec;109(6 Pt 1):2853-67.

The structure of the cuticular plate, an in vivo actin gel.

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  • 1Rosenstiel Basic Medical Sciences Research Center, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts 02254.


The cuticular plate is a network of actin filaments found in hair cells of the cochlea. In the alligator lizard, it consists of rootlets, emanating from the stereocilia, and of cross-connecting actin filaments that anchor these rootlets. In thin sections, this network displays striking patches of 650 +/- 110-A striae. By quantitative analyses of the images, the mystery of the striae can be explained. They are due in part to the rootlets which are sets of flat ribbons of actin filaments. The ribbons in each set are separated by approximately 650 A. Numerous whiskers 30 A in diameter extend from each ribbon's face, interconnecting adjacent ribbons. The nonrootlet filaments, except at the margins of the cell, occur primarily as single filaments. Like the ribbons, they are bristling with whiskers. The patches of striae are explained by ribbons and filaments held at a 650-A separation by the whiskers that project from them. A simple model for regions of bewhiskered filaments is a box crammed full of randomly oriented test-tube brushes. A thin slice through the box will show regions of dark lines or striae due to the wire backbones of the brushes separated from one another by the bristle length. Using the computer instead of test-tube brushes, we have been able to model quantitatively the filament distribution and pattern of striae seen in the cuticular plate of the lizard. The organization of actin filaments we have deduced from our simulations differs from that found in macrophages or in the terminal web of intestinal epithelial cells.

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