Vinculin prepared by published procedures (i.e., Feramisco, J. R., and K. Burridge, 1980, J. Biol. Chem., 255:1194-1199) contains contaminants that have been shown by Evans et al. (Evans, R. R., R. M. Robson, and M. H. Stromer, 1984, J. Biol. Chem., 259:3916-3924) to reduce the low-shear viscosity of F-actin solutions. In this study we separated contaminants from conventional vinculin preparations by hydroxylapatite chromatography. We found that although the contaminants represented a small fraction (less than or equal to 5%) of the total protein in the conventional vinculin preparations, they were responsible for practically all of the filament capping and bundling activities previously attributed to vinculin. In addition, we examined the size of the molecule(s) responsible for the observed capping activity and found that its apparent molecular weight under denaturing conditions in sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) polyacrylamide gels fell within a broad range of 23,000-33,000. These results contrast with the observation that under nondenaturing conditions, the activity migrated in gel filtration columns at a position that corresponded to the Stoke's radius of a much bigger molecule. Since the migration of the activity in these chromatographic experiments is independent of the presence of vinculin, it is unlikely that the active protein associates with vinculin with high affinity under the conditions examined.

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