We investigated the mode of association of vinculin with areas of contact between the termini of microfilament bundles and the cell membrane in sites of focal contact with the substrate by selective removal of actin from these areas. Opened-up substrate-attached membranes of chick fibroblasts as well as detergent-permeabilized cells were treated with fragmin from Physarum in the presence of Ca+2. This treatment removed actin filaments from the cytoplasmic faces of the membranes, along with several actin-associated proteins (alpha-actinin, tropomyosin, myosin, and filamin). Vinculin distribution was not affected by treatment. Moreover, rhodamine- or fluorescein-conjugated vinculin, when added to these preparations, became specifically associated with the focal contacts regardless of whether the latter were pretreated with fragmin or not. We conclude that the association of vinculin with focal contacts is largely actin-independent. We discuss the implications of these findings in the molecular mechanisms of microfilament membrane association in areas of cell contact.

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