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J Muscle Res Cell Motil. 2000;21(8):775-87.

Remodeling of the actin cytoskeleton in the contracting A7r5 smooth muscle cell.

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Department of Physiology, The Joan Edwards School of Medicine, Marshall University, Huntington, WV 25704, USA.


It has been proposed that the reorganization of components of the actin cytomatrix could contribute to force development and the low energy cost of sustained contraction in contractile cells which lack a structured sarcomere (A.S. Battistella-Patterson, S. Wang and G.L. Wright (1997) Can J Physiol Pharmacol 75: 1287-1299). However, there has been no direct evidence of an apropos actin reorganization specifically linked to the contractile response in cells of this type. Remodeling of the alpha- and beta-actin domains was studied in A7r5 smooth muscle cells during phorbol 12,13 dibutyrate (PDB)-induced contraction using immunohistologic staining and beta-actin-green fluorescent protein (beta-actin-GFP) fusion protein expression. Cell stained with phalloidin as well as cells expressing beta-actin-GFP showed densely packed actin stress cables, arranged in parallel and extending across the cell body. PDB caused approximately 85% of cells to contract with evidence of forcible detachment from peripheral adhesion sites seen in many cells. The contraction of the cell body was not uniform but occurred along a principal axis parallel to the system of densely packed beta-actin cables. During the interval of contraction, the beta-actin cables shortened without evidence of disassembly or new cable formation. The use of cytochalasin to inhibit actin polymerization resulted in the dissolution of the actin cables at the central region of the cell and caused the elongation of precontracted cells. In unstimulated cells, alpha-actin formed cables similar in arrangement to the cell spanning beta-actin cables. Within a short interval after PDB addition; however, the majority of alpha-actin cables disassembled and reformed into intensely fluorescing column-like structures extending vertically from the cell base at the center of clusters of alpha-actin filaments. The alpha-actin columns of contracting cells showed strong colocalization of alpha-actinin suggesting they could be structurally analogous to the dense bodies of highly differentiated smooth muscle cells. The results indicate that the alpha- and beta-actin domains of A7r5 cells undergo a highly structured reorganization during PDB-induced contraction. The extent and nature of this restructuring suggest that remodeling could play a role in contractile function.

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