To study the role of conventional myosin in nonmuscle cells, we determined the cytoskeletal organization and physiological responses of a Dictyostelium myosin-defective mutant. Dictyostelium hmm cells were created by insertional mutagenesis of the myosin heavy chain gene (De Lozanne, A., and J. A. Spudich. 1987. Science (Wash. DC). 236: 1086-1091). Western blot analysis using different mAbs confirms that hmm cells express a truncated myosin fragment of 140 kD (HMM-140 protein) instead of the normal 243-kD myosin heavy chain (MHC). Spontaneous revertants appear at a frequency less than 4 x 10(-5), which synthesize normal myosin and are capable of forming thick filaments. In hmm cells, the HMM-140 protein is diffusely distributed in the cytoplasm, indicating that it cannot assemble into thick filaments. The actin distribution in these mutant cells appears similar to that of wild-type cells. However, there is a significant abnormality in the organization of cytoplasmic microtubules, which penetrate into lamellipodial regions. The microtubule networks consist of approximately 13 microtubules on average and their pattern is abnormal. Although hmm cells can form mitotic spindles, mitosis is not coordinated with normal furrow formation. The hmm cells are clearly defective in the contractile events that lead to normal cytokinesis. The retraction of different regions of the cell can result in the occasional pinching off of part of the cell. This process is not coupled with formation of mitotic spindles. There is no specific accumulation of HMM-140 in such constrictions, whereas 73% of such cells show actin concentrated in these regions. The mutant hmm cells are also deficient in capping of Con-A-bound surface receptors, but instead internalize this complex into the cytoplasm. The hmm cells display active phagocytosis of bacteria. Whereas actin is concentrated in the phagocytic cups, HMM-140 protein is not localized in these regions. cAMP, a chemoattractant that induces drastic rounding up and formation of surface blebs in wild type cells, does not induce rounding up in the hmm cells. A Triton-permeabilized cell model of the wild-type amebae contracts on reactivation with Mg-ATP, whereas a model of the hmm cell shows no detectable contraction. Our data demonstrate that the conventional myosin participates in the significant cortical motile activities of Dictyostelium cells, which include rounding up, constriction of cleavage furrows, capping surface receptors, and establishing cell polarity.

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