The detergent-insoluble cytoskeleton of the resting human blood platelet contains approximately 2,000 actin filaments approximately 1 micron in length crosslinked at high angles by actin-binding protein and which bind to a spectrin-rich submembrane lamina (Fox, J., J. Boyles, M. Berndt, P. Steffen, and L. Anderson. 1988. J. Cell Biol. 106:1525-1538; Hartwig, J., and M. DeSisto. 1991. J. Cell Biol. 112:407-425). Activation of the platelets by contact with glass results within 30 s in a doubling of the polymerized actin content of the cytoskeleton and the appearance of two distinct new actin structures: bundles of long filaments within filopodia that end at the filopodial tips (filopodial bundles) and a circumferential zone of orthogonally arrayed short filaments within lamellipodia (lamellipodial network). Neither of these structures appears in cells exposed to glass with cytochalasin B present; instead the cytoskeletons have numerous 0.1-0.3-microns-long actin filament fragments attached to the membrane lamina. With the same time course as the glass-induced morphological changes, cytochalasin-sensitive actin nucleating activity, initially low in cytoskeletons of resting platelets, increases 10-fold in cytoskeletons of thrombin-activated platelets. This activity decays with a time course consistent with depolymerization of 0.1-0.3-microns-long actin filaments, and phalloidin inhibits this decay. Cytochalasin-insensitive and calcium-dependent nucleation activity also increases markedly in platelet extracts after thrombin activation of the cells. Prevention of the rise in cytosolic Ca2+ normally associated with platelet activation with the permeant Ca2+ chelator, Quin-2, inhibits formation of lamellipodial networks but not filopodial bundles after glass contact and reduces the cytochalasin B-sensitive nucleation activity by 60% after thrombin treatment. The filopodial bundles, however, are abnormal in that they do not end at the filopodial tips but form loops and return to the cell body. Addition of calcium to chelated cells restores lamellipodial networks, and calcium plus A23187 results in cytoskeletons with highly fragmented actin filaments within seconds. Immunogold labeling with antibodies against gelsolin reveals gelsolin molecules at the ends of filaments attached to the submembrane lamina of resting cytoskeletons and at the ends of some filaments in the lamellipodial networks and filopodial bundles of activated cytoskeletons. Addition of monomeric actin to myosin subfragment 1-labeled activated cytoskeletons leads to new (undecorated) filament growth off the ends of filaments in the filopodial bundles and the lamellipodial network. The simplest explanation for these findings is that gelsolin caps the barbed ends of the filaments in the resting platelet. Uncapping some of these filaments after activation leads to filopodial bundles.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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