Cow Purkinje fibers contain a population of free cytoplasmic filaments which consistently differ in ultrastructural appearance from actin and myosin filaments, irrespective of preparation technique. The fixation and staining techniques, however, influenced the filament diameter, which was found to be 7.4--9.5 nm for filaments in plastic-embedded material, and 7.0 nm in cryo-sectioned material, thus intermediate as compared to actin and myosin filaments. Cross-sectional profiles suggested that the intermediate-sized filaments are composed of four subfilaments. To provide a basis for further biochemical investigations on the filaments, extraction procedures were carried out to remove other cell organelles. Electron microscopy showed that undulating bundles of intermediate filaments converging towards desmosomes still remained, after the extractions, together with Z-disk material. In spite of the extensive extraction, the shape of the individual cells and the assemblies of cell bundles remained intact. This confirms that the intermediate filaments of cow Purkinje fibers together with desmosomes do in fact have a cytoskeletal function. On account of (a) the cytoskeletal function of the filaments, (b) the similarities to the smooth muscle "100-A filament" protein subunit skeletin, and (c) the inadequate and confusing existing terminology, we suggest that the filaments be named "skeletin filaments."

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