The diffusion coefficients and fluorescence polarization properties of actin subjected to a known shear have been determined both during and after polymerization, using a modification of a cone-plate Wells-Brookfield rheometer that allows monitoring of samples with an epifluorescence microscope. Fluorescence polarization and fluorescence photobleaching recovery experiments using rhodamine-labeled actin as a tracer showed that under conditions of low shear (shear rates of 0.05 s-1), a spatial heterogeneity of polymerized actin was observed with respect to fluorescence intensity and the diffusion coefficients with actin mobility becoming quite variable in different regions of the sample. In addition, complex changes in fluorescence polarization were noted after stopping the shear. Actin filaments of controlled length were obtained using plasma gelsolin (gelsolin/actin molar ratios of 1:50 to 1:300). At ratios of 1:50, neither spatial heterogeneity nor changes in polarization were observed on subjecting the polymerized actin to shear. At ratios of approximately 1:100, a decrease on the intensity of fluorescence polarization occurs on stopping the shear. Longer filaments exhibit spatial micro-heterogeneity and complex changes in fluorescence polarization. In addition, at ratios of 1:100 or 1:300, the diffusion coefficient decreases as the total applied shear increased. This behavior is interpreted as bundling of filaments aligned under shear. We also find that the F-actin translational diffusion coefficients decrease as the total applied shear increases (shear rates between 0.05 and 12.66 s-1), as expected for a cumulative process. When chicken gizzard filamin was added to gelsolin-actin filaments (at filamin/actin molar ratios of 1:300 to 1:10), a similar decrease in the diffusion coefficients was observed for unsheared samples. Spatial microheterogeneity might be related to the effects of the shear field in the alignment of filaments, and the balance between a three-dimensional network and a microheterogeneous system (containing bundles or anisotropic phases) appears related to both shear and the presence of actin-binding proteins.

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