Sea urchin eggs and oocytes at the germinal vesicle stage were fixed at various times after insemination, and thin sections were examined. Actin filaments can first be found in the cortical cytoplasm 1 min after insemination, and by 2 min enormous numbers of filaments are present. At these early stages, the filaments are only occasionally organized into bundles, but one end of many filaments contacts the plasma membrane. By 3 min, and even more dramatically by 5 min after insemination, the filaments become progressively more often found in bundles that lie parallel to the long axis of the microvilli and the fertilization cones. By 7 min, the bundles of filaments in the cone are maximally pronounced, with virtually all the filaments lying parallel to one another. Decoration of the filaments with subfragment 1 of myosin shows that, in both the microvilli and the cones, the filaments are unidirectionally polarized with the arrowheads pointing towards the cell center. The efflux of H+ from the eggs was measured as a function of time after insemination. The rapid phase of H+ efflux occurs at the same time as actin polymerization. From these results it appears that the formation of bundles of actin filaments in microvilli and in cones is a two-step process, involving actin polymerization to form filaments, randomly oriented but in most cases having one end in contact with the plasma membrane, followed by the zippering together of the filaments by macromolecular bridges.

This content is only available as a PDF.