We have investigated the role of myosin in contraction of the terminal web in brush borders isolated from intestinal epithelium. At 37 degrees C under conditions that stimulate terminal web contraction (1 microM Ca++ and ATP), most (60-70%) of the myosin is released from the brush border. Approximately 80% of the myosin is also released by ATP at 0 degree C, in the absence of contraction. Preextraction of this 80% of the myosin from brush borders with ATP has no effect on either the time course or extent of subsequently stimulated contraction. However, contraction is inhibited by removal of all of the myosin with 0.6 M KCl and ATP. Contraction is also inhibited by an antibody to brush border myosin, which inhibits both the ATPase activity of brush border myosin and its ability to form stable bipolar polymers. These results indicate that although functional myosin is absolutely required for terminal web contraction only approximately 20% of the brush border myosin is actually necessary. This raises the possibility that there are at least two different subsets of myosin in the terminal web.

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