Assembly of microfilaments involves the conversion of actin from the monomeric (G) to the filamentous (F) form. The exact sequence of events responsible for this conversion is yet to be defined and, in particular, the role of calcium remains unclear. Intact and electropermeabilized human neutrophils were used to assess more directly the role of cytosolic calcium [( Ca2+]i) in actin assembly. Staining with 7-nitrobenz-2-oxa-1,3-diazole-phallacidin and right angle light scattering were used to monitor the formation of F-actin. Though addition of Ca2+ ionophores can be known to induce actin assembly, the following observations suggest that an increased [Ca2+]i is not directly responsible for receptor-induced actin polymerization: (a) intact cells in Ca2(+)-free medium, depleted of internal Ca2+ by addition of ionophore, responded to the formyl peptide fMLP with actin assembly despite the absence of changes in [Ca2+]i, assessed with Indo-1; (b) fMLP induced a significant increase in F-actin content in permeabilized cells equilibrated with medium containing 0.1 microM free Ca2+, buffered with up to 10 mM EGTA; (c) increasing [Ca2+]i beyond the resting level by direct addition of CaCl2 to permeabilized cells resulted in actin disassembly. Conversely, lowering [Ca2+]i resulted in spontaneous actin assembly. To reconcile these findings with the actin-polymerizing effects of Ca2+ ionophores, we investigated whether A23187 and ionomycin induced actin assembly by a mechanism independent of, or secondary to the increase in [Ca2+]i. We found that the ionophore-induced actin assembly was completely inhibited by the leukotriene B4 (LTB4) antagonist LY-223982, implying that the ionophore effect was secondary to LTB4 formation, possibly by stimulation of phospholipase A2. We conclude that actin assembly is not mediated by an increase in [Ca2+]i, but rather that elevated [Ca2+]i facilitates actin disassembly, an effect possibly mediated by Ca2(+)-sensitive actin filament-severing proteins such as gelsolin. Sequential actin assembly and disassembly may be necessary for functions such as chemotaxis.

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