The contracted pellets derived from a high-speed supernate of Dictyostelium discoideum (S3) were investigated to determine the functional activity associated with this specific subset of the cellular motile apparatus. A partially purified model system of gelation and contraction (S6) was prepared from the contracted pellets, and the presence of calcium- and pH-sensitive gelation and contraction in this model demonstrated that a functional cytoskeletal-contratile complex remained at least partially associated with the actin and myosin during contraction. Semi-quantitative assays of gelation and solation in the myosin-free preparation S6 included measurements of turbidity, relative viscosity, and strain birefringence. The extent of gelation was optimal at pH 6.8 and a free calcium ion concentration of approximately 3.0 x 10(-8) M. Solation was favored when the free calcium ion concentration was greater than 7.6 x 10(-7) M or when the pH was increased or decreased from pH 6.8. Gelation was reversibly inhibited by increasing the free calcium ion concentration to approxomately 4.6 x 10(-6) M at pH 6.8. The solation-gelation process of this model has been interpreted to involve the reversible cross-linking of actin filaments. The addition of purified D. discoideum myosin to S6 served to reconstitute calcium- and pH-regulated contraction. The results from this study indicate that contraction is coupled functionally to the local breakdown (solation) of the gel. Therefore, solation has been identified as a structural requirement for extensive shortening during contraction. We have called this concept the solation-contraction coupling hypothesis. Fractionation of a preparation derived from the contracted pellets yielded a fraction consisting of actin and a 95,000-dalton polypeptide that exhibited calcium-sensitive gelation at 28 degrees C and a fraction composed of actin and 30,000- and 18,000-dalton polypeptides that demonstrated calcium-sensitive genlation at 0 degrees C.

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