The distribution, ultrastructure, and chemistry of microfilaments in cultured chick embryo fibroblasts were studied by thin sectioning of flat-embedded untreated and glycerol-extracted cells, histochemical and immunological electron microscopic procedures, and the negative staining of cells cultured on electron microscopic grids. In these cultured cells, the microfilaments are arranged into thick bundles that are disposed longitudinally and in looser arrangements in the fusiform-shaped cells. In the latter case, they are concentrated along the margins of the flattened cell, on the dorsal surface, and particularly at the ends of the cell and its ventral surface, where contact is made with the plastic dish or with other cells. Extracellular filaments, presumably originating from within the cell, are found at these points of contact. The microfilaments are composed in part of an actin-like protein. These filaments are between 70 and 90 Å in diameter, they are stable in 50% glycerol, they have an endogenous ATPase (myosin-like?) associated with them, they bind rabbit muscle heavy meromyosin, and they specifically bind antibody directed against isolated actin-like protein. In the cultured chick embryo fibroblasts, the microfilaments are essential for the establishment and maintenance of form, and they are probably critical elements for adhesion and motility. The microfilaments might also serve as stabilizers of intramembranous particle fluidity.

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