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Eur J Cell Biol. 1992 Apr;57(2):298-307.

The molecular architecture of an insect midgut brush border cytoskeleton.

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Dipartimento di Biologia, Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy.


The cytoskeletal apparatus of the vertebrate intestinal brush border (BB) has served as a model system for the actin-based cytoskeleton of nonmuscle cells. In this study, we examine the structural organization and molecular architecture of the BB cytoskeleton expressed in the midgut of lepidopteran larvae, Manduca sexta. Electron microscopy of the midgut of the 5th instar larvae revealed enterocytes with an apical BB surface comparable to that in the vertebrate intestine, with both microvillar (MV) and terminal web (TW) domains, the latter defined by a zone of organelle exclusion directly beneath the MV. As reported previously for the larval dragon fly, the MV contain a bundle of actin filaments, as determined by staining with rhodamine phalloidin (Kukulies, J., et al., Protoplasma 121, 157-162 (1984)) and heavy meromyosin decoration (Komnick, H., J. Kukulies, Zoomorphology 107, 241-253 (1987)). Two-dimensional gel analysis revealed the presence of multiple isoelectric variants of actin with the major isoform corresponding to the non-muscle actin isoform II, expressed in Drosophila. Like the vertebrate BB, the Manduca BB can be isolated intact from enterocytes by mechanical shear. Immunochemical analysis of isolated BB fractions or whole homogenates of midgut revealed proteins of appropriate molecular weight immunoreactive with antibodies to the MV core proteins: BB myosin I, villin and fimbrin, and the TW components: spectrin, myosin II and tropomyosin. Immunocytochemical localization of a subset of these proteins at the light microscopic (spectrin) and electron microscopic (actin, villin, spectrin, myosin II, and tropomyosin) level reveals that the molecular architecture of the Manduca BB cytoskeleton is homologous to that found in vertebrates.

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