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Eur Biophys J. 2008 Apr;37(4):447-54. Epub 2007 Nov 15.

Thickness distribution of actin bundles in vitro.

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Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva 84105, Israel.


Bundles of filamentous actin form the primary building blocks of a broad range of cytoskeletal structures, including filopodia, stereocilia and microvilli. In each case, the cell uses specific associated proteins to tailor the dynamics, dimensions and mechanical properties of the bundles to suit a specific cellular function. While the length distribution of actin bundles was extensively studied, almost nothing is known about the thickness distribution. Here, we use high-resolution cryo-TEM to measure the thickness distribution of actin/fascin bundles, in vitro. We find that the thickness distribution has a prominent peak, with an exponential tail, supporting a scenario of an initial fast formation of a disc-like nucleus of short actin filaments, which only later elongates. The bundle thicknesses at steady state are found to follow the distribution of the initial nuclei indicating that no lateral coalescence occurs. Our results show that the distribution of bundles thicknesses can be controlled by monitoring the initial nucleation process. In vivo, this is done by using specific regulatory proteins complexes.

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