To determine the relationship between the state of actin polymerization in neutrophils and the formyl-methionyl-leucyl-phenylalanine (fMLP)-induced changes in the locomotive behavior of neutrophils, the mean rate of locomotion (mROL), the percent G-actin, and the relative F-actin content of neutrophils were determined. The mROL was quantified by analysis of the locomotion of individual cells; the percentage of total actin as G-actin was measured by DNase I inhibition; and the F-actin was determined by fluorescence-activated cell sorter (FACS) analysis of nitrobenzoxadiazol (NBD)-phallacidin-stained neutrophils. Neutrophils stimulated with fMLP exhibit a change in their mROL that is biphasic and dose dependent. The mROL of neutrophils exposed to 10(-8) M fMLP, the KD, is 11.9 +/- 2.0 micron/min (baseline control 6.2 +/- 1.0 micron/min). At 10(-6) M fMLP, the mROL returns to baseline levels. Stimulation of neutrophils with fMLP also induces action polymerization. Evidence for actin polymerization includes a 26.5% reduction in G-actin and a twofold increase in the amount of NBD-phallacidin staining of cells as determined by FACS analysis. The NBD-phallacidin staining is not due to phagocytosis, is inhibited by phalloidin, requires cell permeabilization, and is saturable at NBD-phallacidin concentrations greater than 10(-7)M. The fMLP-induced increase in NBD-phallacidin staining occurs rapidly (less than 2 min), is temperature dependent, and is not due to cell aggregation. Since NBD-phallacidin binds specifically to F-actin, the increase in fluorescent staining of cells likely reflects an increase in the F-actin content of fMLP-stimulated cells. FACS analysis of NBD-phallacidin-stained cells shows that the relative F-actin content of neutrophils stimulated with 10(-11)-10(-8)M fMLP increases twofold and remains increased at concentrations greater than 10(-8)M fMLP. Therefore, the fMLP-induced increase in F-actin content of neutrophils as determined by FACS analysis of NBD-phallacidin-stained cells coincides with a decrease in G-actin and correlates with increased mROL of neutrophils under some (10(-11)-10(-8)M fMLP) but not all (greater than 10(-8)M fMLP) conditions of stimulation. Quantification of the F-actin content of nonmuscle cells by FACS analysis of NBD-phallacidin-stained cells may allow rapid assessment of the state of actin polymerization and correlation of that state with the motile behavior of nonmuscle cells.

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