Adducin is an erythrocyte membrane skeletal phosphoprotein comprised of two related subunits of 105,000 and 100,000 Mr. These peptides form a functional heterodimer, and the smaller of the two binds calmodulin in a calcium-dependent fashion. Although this protein has been physicochemically characterized, its function remains unknown. We have examined the interaction of human adducin with actin and with human erythrocyte spectrin using sedimentation, electrophoretic, and morphologic techniques. Purified adducin binds actin at physiologic ionic strength and bundles it into arrays of laterally arranged filaments, the adducin forming cross-bridges between the filaments at 35.2 /- 3.8 (2 SD) nm intervals. The stoichiometry of high affinity adducin binding to actin at saturation is 1:7, corresponding to a dimer of adducin for every actin helical unit. Adducin also promotes the binding of spectrin to actin independently of protein 4.1. At saturation, each adducin promotes the association of one spectrin heterodimer. The formation of this ternary spectrin-actin-adducin complex is independent of the assembly path, and the complex exists in a readily reversible equilibrium with the free components. The binding of adducin to actin and its ability to stimulate spectrin-actin binding is down-regulated by calmodulin in a calcium-dependent fashion. These results thus identify a putative role for adducin, and define a calcium- and calmodulin-dependent mechanism whereby higher states of actin association and its interaction with spectrin in the erythrocyte may be controlled.

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