The distribution and length of actin microfilaments (MF) was determined in axoplasm extruded from the giant axons of the squid (Loligo pealeii). Extruded axoplasm that was separated from the axonal cortex contains approximately 92% of the total axonal actin, and 60% of this actin is polymerized (Morris, J., and R. Lasek. 1984. J. Cell Biol. 98:2064-2076). Localization of MF with rhodamine-phalloidin indicated that the MF were organized in fine columns oriented longitudinally within the axoplasm. In the electron microscope, MF were surrounded by a dense matrix and they were associated with the microtubule domains of the axoplasm. The surrounding matrix tended to obscure the MF which may explain why MF have rarely been recognized before in the inner regions of the axon. The axoplasmic MF are relatively short (number average length of 0.55 micron). Length measurements of MF prepared either in the presence or absence of the actin-filament stabilizing drug phalloidin indicate that axoplasm contains two populations of MF: stable MF (number average length of 0.79 micron) and metastable MF (number average length of 0.41 micron). Although individual axonal MF are much shorter than axonal microtubules, the combined length of the total MF is twice that of the total microtubules. Apparently, these numerous short MF have an important structural role in the architecture of the inner axonal cytoskeleton.

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