Chicken retinal pigmented epithelial cells have circumferential microfilament bundles (CMBs) at the zonula adherens region. We have isolated these CMBs in intact form and characterized them structurally and biochemically. Pigmented epithelia obtained from 11-d-old chick embryos were treated with glycerol and Triton. Then, the epithelia were homogenized by passing them through syringe needles. Many isolated CMBs were found in the homogenate by phase-contrast microscopy. They formed polygons, mostly pentagons and hexagons, or fragments of polygons. Polygons were filled with meshwork structures, i.e. they were polygonal plates. Upon exposure to Mg-ATP, isolated CMBs showed clear and large contraction. The contraction was inhibited by treatment with N-ethylmaleimide-modified myosin subfragment-1. After purification by centrifugation with the density gradient of Percoll, CMBs were analyzed by SDS PAGE. The electrophoretic pattern gave three major components of 200, 55, and 42 kdaltons and several minor components. Electron microscopy showed that the polygons were composed of thick bundles of actin-containing microfilaments, and the meshworks were composed primarily of intermediate filaments.

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