Gelsolin is a 90,000-mol-wt Ca2+-binding, actin-associated protein that can nucleate actin filament growth, sever filaments, and cap barbed filament ends. Brevin is a closely related 92,000-mol-wt plasma protein with similar properties. Gelsolin has been reported to be localized on actin filaments in stress fibers, in cardiac and skeletal muscle I-bands, and in cellular regions where actin filaments are known to be concentrated. Previous localization studies have used sera or antibody preparations that contain brevin. Using purified brevin-free IgG and IgA monoclonal antibodies or affinity-purified polyclonal antibodies for gelsolin and brevin, we find no preferential stress fiber staining in cultured human fibroblasts or I-band staining in isolated rabbit skeletal muscle sarcomeres. Cardiac muscle frozen sections show no pronounced I-band staining, except in local areas where brevin may have penetrated from adjacent blood vessels. Spreading platelets show endogenous gelsolin localized at the cell periphery, in the central cytoplasmic mass and on thin fibers that radiate from the central cytoplasm. Addition of 3-30 micrograms/ml of brevin to the antibodies restores intense stress fiber and I-band staining. We see no evidence for large-scale severing and removal of filaments in stress fibers in formaldehyde-fixed, acetone-permeabilized cells even at brevin concentrations of 30 micrograms/ml. The added brevin or brevin antibody complex binds to actin filaments and is detected by the fluorescently tagged secondary antibody. Brevin binding occurs in either Ca2+ or EGTA, but is slightly more intense in EGTA suggesting some severing and filament removal may occur in Ca2+. The I-band staining is limited to the region where actin and myosin do not overlap. In addition, brevin does not appear to bind at the Z-line. A comparison of cells double-labeled with fluorescein-phallotoxin, exogenous brevin, and a monoclonal antibody, detected with a rhodamine-labeled secondary antibody, shows almost complete co-localization of F-actin with the brevin-gelsolin-binding sites. A major exception is in the area of the adhesion plaque. A quantitative comparison of the fluorescein-rhodamine fluorescence intensities along a stress fiber and into the adhesion plaque shows that the fluorescein signal, associated with F-actin, increases while the rhodamine signal decreases. We infer that exogenous brevin or endogenous gelsolin can bind to and potentially sever most actin filaments, but that actin-associated proteins in the adhesion plaque can prevent binding and severing.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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