The arrangement of cytoplasmic dense bodies in vertebrate smooth muscle and their relationship to the thin filaments was studied in cells from rabbit vas deferens and portal vein which were made hyperpermeable (skinned) with saponin and incubated with myosin subfragment 1 (S-1). The dense bodies were obliquely oriented, elongated structures sometimes appearing as chains up to 1.5 microns in length; they were often continuous across the cell for 200 to 300 nm and were interconnected by an oblique network of 10-nm filaments. The arrowheads, formed by S-1 decoration of actins, which inserted into both the sides and ends of dense bodies, always pointed away from the dense body, similar to the polarity of the thin filaments at the Z-bands of skeletal muscle. These results show that the cytoplasmic dense bodies function as anchoring sites for the thin filaments and indicate that the thin filaments, thick filaments, and dense bodies constitute a contractile unit.

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