We have affinity-fractionated rabbit antiactin immunoglobulins (IgG) into classes that bind preferentially to either muscle or nonmuscle actins. The pools of muscle- and nonmuscle-specific actin antibodies were used in conjunction with fluorescence microscopy to characterize the actin in vascular pericytes, endothelial cells (EC), and smooth muscle cells (SMC) in vitro and in situ. Nonmuscle-specific antiactin IgG stained the stress fibers of cultured EC and pericytes but did not stain the stress fibers of cultured SMC, although the cortical cytoplasm associated with the plasma membrane of SMC did react with nonmuscle-specific antiactin. Whereas the muscle-specific antiactin IgG failed to stain EC stress fibers and only faintly stained their cortical cytoplasm, these antibodies reacted strongly with the fiber bundles of cultured SMC and pericytes. Similar results were obtained in situ. The muscle-specific antiactin reacted strongly with the vascular SMC of arteries and arterioles as well as with the perivascular cells (pericytes) associated with capillaries and post-capillary venules. The non-muscle-specific antiactin stained the endothelium and the pericytes but did not react with SMC. These findings indicate that pericytes in culture and in situ possess both muscle and nonmuscle isoactins and support the hypothesis that the pericyte may represent the capillary and venular correlate of the SMC.

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