When exposed to the N-formylated chemoattractant peptides, neutrophils undergo a transient ruffling followed by a polarization that involves a redistribution of F-actin (Fechheimer, M., and S. H. Zigmond, 1983, Cell Motil., 3:349-361). The cells also undergo a biphasic right angle light scatter response whose first phase is maximal 10-15 s after exposure to the stimulus, and whose second phase is longer in duration and maximal only after 1 min or more (Yuli, I., and R. Snyderman, 1984, J. Clin. Invest. 73:1408-1417). We now report that the first phase is accompanied by a transient polymerization of actin (monitored by cytometric analysis of phallacidin staining according to the method of Howard, T. H., and W. H. Meyer, 1984, J. Cell Biol., 98:1265-1271) and the second phase is accompanied by a more sustained polymerization of actin. Based on correlated measurements of ligand binding (Sklar, L. A., D. A. Finney, Z. G. Oades, A. J. Jesaitis, R. G. Painter, and C. G. Cochrane, 1984, J. Biol. Chem., 259:5661-5669) and intracellular Ca++ elevation (under conditions where we use the fluorescent Ca++ chelator Quin 2 to modulate intracellular Ca++ levels), we conclude that this first phase requires less than 100 receptors/cell (out of 50,000) and does not require the release of intracellular stores of Ca++. In contrast, the sustained polymerization requires both the occupancy of thousands of receptors (an estimated 10% of the receptors per minute) and may be somewhat sensitive to the availability of intracellular Ca++. When ligand binding is interrupted, F-actin rapidly depolymerizes with a half-time of no greater than approximately 15 s, and the transient light scatter response decays toward its initial value in parallel. Partial disaggregation of the cells follows the recovery of these responses. Based on these observations, we suggest that transient actin polymerization and transient cell ruffling give rise to transient aggregation as long as degranulation is limited.

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