To determine if a living cell is necessary for the incorporation of actin, alpha-actinin, and tropomyosin into the cytoskeleton, we have exposed cell models to fluorescently labeled contractile proteins. In this in vitro system, lissamine rhodamine-labeled actin bound to attachment plaques, ruffles, cleavage furrows and stress fibers, and the binding could not be blocked by prior exposure to unlabeled actin. Fluorescently labeled alpha-actinin also bound to ruffles, attachment plaques, cleavage furrows, and stress fibers. The periodicity of fluorescent alpha-actinin along stress fibers was wider in gerbil fibroma cells than it was in PtK2 cells. The fluorescent alpha-actinin binding in cell models could not be blocked by the prior addition of unlabeled alpha-actinin suggesting that alpha-actinin was binding to itself. While there was only slight binding of fluorescent tropomyosin to the cytoskeleton of interphase cells, there was stronger binding in furrow regions of models of dividing cells. The binding of fluorescently labeled tropomyosin could be blocked by prior exposure of the cell models to unlabeled tropomyosin. If unlabeled actin was permitted to polymerize in the stress fibers in cell models, fluorescently labeled tropomyosin stained the fibers. In contrast to the labeled contractile proteins, fluorescently labeled ovalbumin and BSA did not stain any elements of the cytoskeleton. Our results are discussed in terms of the structure and assembly of stress fibers and cleavage furrows.

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