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Biophys J. 1993 Oct;65(4):1371-8.

A novel method to study the electrodynamic behavior of actin filaments. Evidence for cable-like properties of actin.

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Renal Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital East, Charlestown 02129.


Actin, one of the most abundant intracellular proteins, forms long linear polyelectrolytic polymers in solution. A novel technique to handle single actin filaments in solution was developed that allows the study of ionic currents elicited along the surface of electrically stimulated actin filaments. Electrical currents were observed about the polymer's surface under both high (100 mM KCl) and low (1 mM KCl) ionic strength conditions. The data are consistent with a dynamic behavior of the counterionic cloud surrounding the actin filaments that support ionic movements along their longitudinal axis upon electrical stimulation. Counterionic waves were highly nonlinear in nature and remained long after the electrical stimulation of the actin filaments ceased. In this report therefore, we demonstrate that actin filaments can function as biological "electrical wires" and can thus be conceptualized as nonlinear inhomogeneous transmission lines. This ability of actin filaments to conduct electrical signals may have important implications in the coupling of intracellular signals.

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