In Dictyostelium amebas, myosin appears to be organized into filaments that relocalize during cell division and in response to stimulation by cAMP. To better understand the regulation of myosin assembly, we have studied the polymerization properties of purified Dictyostelium myosin. In 150 mM KCl, the myosin remained in the supernate following centrifugation at 100,000 g. Rotary shadowing showed that this soluble myosin was monomeric and that approximately 80% of the molecules had a single bend 98 nm from the head-tail junction. In very low concentrations of KCl (less than 10 mM) the Dictyostelium myosin was also soluble at 100,000 g. But rather than being monomeric, most of the molecules were associated into dimers or tetramers. At pH 7.5 in 50 mM KCl, dephosphorylated myosin polymerized into filaments whereas myosin phosphorylated to a level of 0.85 mol Pi/mol heavy chain failed to form filaments. The phosphorylated myosin could be induced to form filaments by lowering the pH or by increasing the magnesium concentration to 10 mM. The resulting filaments were bipolar, had blunt ends, and had a uniform length of approximately 0.43 micron. In contrast, filaments formed from fully dephosphorylated myosin were longer, had tapered ends, and aggregated to form very long, threadlike structures. The Dictyostelium myosin had a very low critical concentration for assembly of approximately 5 micrograms/ml, and this value did not appear to be affected by the level of heavy chain phosphorylation. The concentration of polymer at equilibrium, however, was significantly reduced, indicating that heavy chain phosphorylation inhibited the affinity of subunits for each other. Detailed assembly curves revealed that small changes in the concentration of KCl, magnesium, ATP, or H+ strongly influenced the degree of assembly. Thus, changes in both the intracellular milieu and the level of heavy chain phosphorylation may control the location and state of assembly of myosin in response to physiological stimuli.

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