The process of wound repair in monolayers of the intestinal epithelial cell line, Caco-2BBe, was analyzed by a combination of time-lapse differential interference contrast (DIC) video and immunofluorescence microscopy, and laser scanning confocal immunofluorescence microscopy (LSCIM). DIC video analysis revealed that stab wounds made in Caco-2BBe monolayers healed by two distinct processes: (a) Extension of lamellipodia into the wounds; and (b) Purse string closure of the wound by distinct arcs or rings formed by cells bordering the wound. The arcs and rings which effected purse string closure appeared sharp and sheer in DIC, spanned between two and eight individual cells along the wound border, and contracted in a concerted fashion. Immunofluorescence analysis of the wounds demonstrated that the arcs and rings contained striking accumulations of actin filaments, myosin-II, villin, and tropomyosin. In contrast, arcs and rings contained no apparent enrichment of microtubules, brush border myosin-I immunogens, or myosin-V. LSCIM analysis confirmed the localization of actin filaments, myosin-II, villin, and tropomyosin in arcs and rings at wound borders. ZO-1 (a tight junction protein), also accumulated in arcs and rings around wounds, despite the fact that cell-cell contacts are absent at wound borders. Sucrase-isomaltase, an apically-localized integral membrane protein, maintained an apical localization in cells where arcs or rings were formed, but was found in lamellipodia extending into wounds in cells where arcs failed to form. Time-course, LSCIM quantification of actin, myosin II, and ZO-1 revealed that accumulation of these proteins within arcs and rings at the wound edge began within 5 minutes and peaked within 30-60 minutes of wounding. Actin filaments, myosin-II, and ZO-1 achieved 10-, 3-, and 4-fold enrichments, respectively, relative to cell edges which did not border wounds. The results demonstrate that wounded Caco-2BBe monolayers assemble a novel cytoskeletal structure at the borders of wounds. The results further suggest that this structure plays at least two roles in wound repair; first, mediation of concerted, purse string movement of cells into the area of the wound and second, maintenance of apical/basolateral polarity in cells which border the wound.

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