Recent evidence that polyphosphoinositides regulate the function of the actin-modulating protein gelsolin in vitro raises the possibility that gelsolin interacts with cell membranes. This paper reports ultrastructural immunohistochemical data revealing that gelsolin molecules localize with plasma and intracellular membranes, including rough endoplasmic reticulum, cortical vesicles and mitochondria of macrophages, and blood platelets. Anti-gelsolin gold also labeled the surface and interior of secondary lysosomes presumably representing plasma gelsolin ingested by these cells from the lung surface by endocytosis. Gelsolin molecules, visualized with colloidal gold in replicas of the cytoplasmic side of the substrate-adherent plasma membrane of mechanically unroofed and rapidly frozen and freeze-dried macrophages, associated with the ends of short actin filaments sitting on the cytoplasmic membrane surface. A generalized distribution of gelsolin molecules in thin sections of resting platelets rapidly became peripheral, and plasmalemma association increased following thrombin stimulation. At later times the distribution reverted to the cytoplasmic distribution of resting cells. These findings provide the first evidence for gelsolin binding to actin filament ends in cells and indicate that gelsolin functions in both cytoplasmic and membrane domains.

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