The actin filament severing protein, Acanthamoeba actophorin, decreases the viscosity of actin filaments, but increases the stiffness and viscosity of mixtures of actin filaments and the crosslinking protein alpha-actinin. The explanation of this paradox is that in the presence of both the severing protein and crosslinker the actin filaments aggregate into an interlocking meshwork of bundles large enough to be visualized by light microscopy. The size of these bundles depends on the size of the containing vessel. The actin filaments in these bundles are tightly packed in some areas while in others they are more disperse. The bundles form a continuous reticulum that fills the container, since the filaments from a particular bundle may interdigitate with filaments from other bundles at points where they intersect. The same phenomena are seen when rabbit muscle aldolase rather than alpha-actinin is used as the crosslinker. We propose that actophorin promotes bundling by shortening the actin filaments enough to allow them to rotate into positions favorable for lateral interactions with each other via alpha-actinin. The network of bundles is more rigid and less thixotropic than the corresponding network of single actin filaments linked by alpha-actinin. One explanation may be that alpha-actinin (or aldolase) normally in rapid equilibria with actin filaments may become trapped between the filaments increasing the effective concentration of the crosslinker.

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