Cells in culture exposed to cytochalasin D (CD) rapidly undergo a long-sustained tonic contraction. Coincident with this contracture the thin microfilaments of the cortex become compacted into feltlike masses. The ravelled filaments of these masses remain actinlike and bind heavy meromyosin; they are not disrupted or disaggregated, but rather, appear to represent a contracted state of the microfilament apparatus of the cell cortex. On continued exposure to CD, ‘myoid’ bundles, containing thick, dense filaments, and larger fusiform or ribbonlike, putatively myosinoid, aggregates may appear.
These appearances are interpreted as consequences of a state of hypercontraction without relaxation induced by CD. They do not occur in CD-treated cells prevented from contracting by inhibitors of energy metabolism, and are readily reversible on withdrawal of CD. Extensive ordered arrays of thin microfilaments develop in cells which are reextending during early recovery.