Cells lacking the Dictyostelium 34,000-D actin-bundling protein, a calcium-regulated actin cross-linking protein, were created to probe the function of this polypeptide in living cells. Gene replacement vectors were constructed by inserting either the UMP synthase or hygromycin resistance cassette into cloned 4-kb genomic DNA containing sequences encoding the 34-kD protein. After transformation and growth under appropriate selection, cells lacking the protein were analyzed by PCR analyses on genomic DNA, Northern blotting, and Western blotting. Cells lacking the 34-kD protein were obtained in strains derived from AX2 and AX3. Growth, pinocytosis, morphogenesis, and expression of developmentally regulated genes is normal in cells lacking the 34-kD protein. In chemotaxis studies, 34-kD- cells were able to locomote and orient normally, but showed an increased persistence of motility. The 34-kD- cells also lost bits of cytoplasm during locomotion. The 34-kD- cells exhibited either an excessive number of long and branched filopodia, or a decrease in filopodial length and an increase in the total number of filopodia per cell depending on the strain. Reexpression of the 34-kD protein in the AX2-derived strain led to a "rescue" of the defect in the persistence of motility and of the excess numbers of long and branched filopodia, demonstrating that these defects result from the absence of the 34-kD protein. We explain the results through a model of partial functional redundancy. Numerous other actin cross-linking proteins in Dictyostelium may be able to substitute for some functions of the 34-kD protein in the 34-kD cells. The observed phenotype is presumed to result from functions that cannot be adequately supplanted by a substitution of another actin cross-linking protein. We conclude that the 34-kD actin-bundling protein is not essential for growth, but plays an important role in dynamic control of cell shape and cytoplasmic structure.

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