Extracts of the soluble cytoplasmic proteins of the sea urchin egg form gels of different composition and properties depending on the temperature used to induce actin polymerization. At temperatures that inactivate myosin, a gel composed of actin, fascin, and a 220,000-mol-wt protein is formed. Fascin binds actin into highly organized units with a characteristic banding pattern, and these actin-fascin units are the structural core of the sea urchin microvilli formed after fertilization and of the urchin coelomocyte filopods. Under milder conditions a more complex myosin-containing gel is formed, which contracts to a small fraction of its original volume within an hour after formation. What has been called "structural" gel can be assembled by combining actin, fascin, and the 220,000-mol-wt protein in 50-100 mM KCl; the aim of the experiments reported here was to determine whether myosin could be included during assembly, thereby interconverting structural and contractile gel. This approach is limited by the aggregation of sea urchin myosin at the low salt concentrations utilized in gel assembly. A method has been devised for the sequential combination of these components under controlled KCl and ATP concentrations that allows the formation of a gel containing dispersed myosin at a final concentration of 60-100 mM KCl. These gels are stable at low (approximately 10 micron) ATP concentrations, but contract to a small volume in the presence of higher (approximately 100 micron) ATP. Contraction can be controlled by forming a stable gel at low ATP and then overlaying it with a solution containing sufficient ATP to induce contraction. This system may provide a useful model for the study of the interrelations between cytoplasmic structure and motility.

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