Brush borders isolated from epithelial cells from the small intestine of neonatal rats are able to contract in the presence of ATP and Mg2+; Ca2+ is not required. Contraction is characterized by a pinching-in of the plasma membrane in the region of the zonula adherens and a subsequent rounding of the brush borders. No movement or consistent shortening of the microvilli is observed. The contraction appears to involve the 5- to 7-nm diameter microfilaments in the terminal web which associate with the zonula adherens. These filaments bind heavy meromyosin as do the actin core filaments of the microvilli. A model for contraction is presented in which, in the intact cell, terminal web filaments and core filaments interact to produce shortening of the microvilli.

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