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Dev Biol. 1988 Jun;127(2):338-48.

Filamentous actin organization in the unfertilized sea urchin egg cortex.

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Department of Anatomy and Cellular Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115.


We have investigated the organization of filamentous actin in the cortex of unfertilized eggs of the sea urchins Strongylocentrotus purpuratus and Lytechinus variegatus. Rhodamine phalloidin and anti-actin immunofluorescent staining of isolated cortices reveal a punctate pattern of fluorescent sources. Comparison of this pattern with SEM images of microvillar morphology and distribution indicates that filamentous actin in the cortex is predominantly localized in the microvilli. Thin-section TEM and quick-freeze deep-etch ultrastructure of isolated cortices demonstrates that this microvillar-associated actin is in a novel organizational state composed of very short filaments arranged in a tight network and that these filament networks form mounds that extend beyond the plane of the plasma membrane. Actin filaments within the networks do not exhibit free ends and make end-on attachments with the membrane only within the region of the evaginating microvilli. Myosin S-1 dissociable crosslinks, 2-3 nm in diameter, are observed between network filaments and between network filaments and the membrane. A second population of long, individual actin filaments is observed in close lateral association with the plasma membrane and frequently complexes with the microvillar actin networks. The filamentous actin of the unfertilized egg cortex may participate in establishing the mechanical properties of the egg surface and may function in nucleating the assembly of cortical actin following fertilization.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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