In the stress fibers of two types of nonmuscle cells, epithelia (PtK2, bovine lens) and fibroblasts (Gerbil fibroma, WI-38, primary human) the spacing between sites of alpha-actinin localization differs by a factor of about 1.6 as determined by indirect immunofluorescence and ultrastructural localization with peroxidase-labeled antibody. Both methods reveal striations along the stress fibers with a center-to-center spacing in the range of 0.9 mum in epithelial cells and 1.5 mum in fibroblasts. Periodic densities spaced at comparable distances are seen in PtK2 and in gerbil fibroma cells when they are treated with tannic acid and examined in the electron microscope. In such cells, densities are found not only along stress fibers but also at cell-cell junctions, attachment plaques, and foci from which stress fibers radiate. These latter three sites all stain with alpha-actinin antibody on the light and electron microscope level. Stress fibers in the two cell types also vary in the periodicity produced by indirect immunofluorescence with tropomyosin antibodies. As is the case for alpha-actinin, the tropomyosin center-to-center banding is approximately 1.6 times as long in gerbil fibroma cells (1.7 mum) as it is in PtK2 cells (1.0 mum). These results suggest that the densities seen in the electron microscope are sites of alpha-actinin localization and that the proteins in stress fibers have an arrangement similar to that in striated muscle. We propose a sarcomeric model of stress fiber structure based on light and electron microscopic findings.

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