The actin/myosin II cytoskeleton and its role in phagocytosis were examined in primary cultures of dog thyroid cells. Two (19 and 21 kD) phosphorylated light chains of myosin (P-MLC) were identified by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis of antimyosin immunoprecipitates, and were associated with the Triton X-100 insoluble, F-actin cytoskeletal fraction. Analyses of Triton-insoluble and soluble 32PO4-prelabeled protein fractions indicated that TSH (via cAMP) or TPA treatment of intact cells decreases the MLC phosphorylation state. Phosphoamino acid and tryptic peptide analyses of 32P-MLCs from basal cells showed phosphorylation primarily at threonine and serine residues; most of the [32P] appeared associated with a peptide containing sites typically phosphorylated by MLC kinase. Even in the presence of the agents which induced dephosphorylation, the phosphatase inhibitor, calyculin A, caused a severalfold increase in MLC phosphorylation at several distinct serine and threonine sites which was also associated with actomyosin and cell contraction. Phosphorylation of cell homogenate proteins or the cytoskeletal fraction with [gamma-32P]ATP indicated that Ca2+, EGTA, or trifluoperazine (TFP) has little effect on the phosphorylation of MLC. Both fluorescent phalloidin and antimyosin staining of cells showed distinct dorsal and ventral stress fiber complexes which were disrupted within 30 min by TSH and cAMP; TPA appeared to cause disruption of dorsal, and rearrangement of ventral complexes. Concomitant with MLC dephosphorylation and stress fiber disruption, TSH/cAMP, but not TPA, induced dorsal phagocytosis of latex beads. While stimulation of either A or C-kinase disrupts dorsal stress fibers and rearranges actomyosin, another event(s) mediated by A-kinase appears necessary for phagocytic activity.

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