The brush border of intestinal epithelial cells consists of an array of tightly packed microvilli. Within each microvillus is a bundle of 20-30 actin filaments. The basal ends of the filament bundles are embedded in and interconected by a filamentous meshwork, the terminal web, which lies directly beneath the microvilli. When calcium and ATP are added to isolated brush borders that have been treated with the detergent, Triton X-100, the microvillar filament bundles rapidly retract into and through the terminal web region. Biochemical studies of brush border contractile proteins suggest that the observed microvillar contraction is actomyosin mediated. We have shown previously that the major protein of the brush border's actin (Tilney, L. G., and M. S. Mooseker. 1971. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 68:2611-2615). The brush border also contains a protein with the same molecular weight as the heavy chain subunit of myosin (200, 000 daltons). In addition, preparations of demembranated brush borders exhibit potassium-EDTA ATPase activity of 0.02 mumol phosphate/mg-min (22 degrees C); this assay is diagnostic for myosin-like ATPase isolated from vertebrate sources. Other proteins of the brush border include a 30,000 dalton protein with properties similar to those of tropomyosin, and a protein with the same molecular weight as the Z band protein, alpha-actinin (95,000 daltons). How these observations bear on the basis for microvillar movements in vivo is discussed within the framework of our recent model for the organization of actin and myosin in the brush border (Mooseker, M. S., and L. G. Tilney. 1975. J. Cell Biol. 67:725-743).

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