Using a variety of preparative techniques for electron microscopy, we have obtained evidence for the disposition of actin and myosin in vertebrate smooth muscle. All longitudinal myofilaments seen in sections appear to be actin. Previous reports of two types of longitudinal filaments in sections are accounted for by technical factors, and by differentiated areas of opacity along individual filaments. Dense bodies with actin emerging from both ends have been identified in homogenates, and resemble Z discs from skeletal muscle (Huxley, 1963). In sections, short, dark-staining lateral filaments 15–25 A in diameter link adjacent actin filaments within dense bodies and in membrane dense pataches. They appear homologous with Z-disc filaments. Similar lateral filaments connect actin to plasma membrane. Dense bodies and dense patches, therefore, are attachment points and denote units analogous to sarcomeres. In glycerinated, methacrylate-embedded sections, lateral processes different in length and staining characteristics from lateral filaments in dense bodies exist at intervals along actin filaments. These processes are about 30 A wide and resemble heavy meromyosin from skeletal muscle. They also resemble heads of whole molecules of myosin in negatively stained material from gizzard homogenates. Intact single myosin molecules and dimers have been found, both free and attached to actin, even in media of very low ionic strength. Myosin can, therefore, exist in relatively disaggregated form. Models of the contraction mechanism of smooth muscle are proposed. The unique features are: (1) Myosin exists as small functional units. (2) Movement occurs by interdigitation and sliding of actin filaments.

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