The 3-dimensional structure of the fibrous cytoskeleton of 3T3 cells was examined by scanning electron microscopy of cells extracted with the non-ionic detergent Triton X-100. Detergent-extracted cells consist of the nucleus and an extensive system of fibres, the largest of which correspond to stress fibres visible by phase-contrast microscopy. The system of fibres, which is coterminous with the borders of the native cell, remains firmly adherent to the substratum. The major fibres branch into smaller fibrils which appear to end by ravelling out into fine filaments that constitute a matted network in a plane very close to that of the substratum. In the nuclear region all the major fibres pass over the top of the nucleus, where they may also branch into a system of fine fibrils. Thin-section transmission electron microscopy in conjunction with heavy meromyosin treatment of extracted cells shows the fibres to be composed of native F-actin. Intermediate filaments are also present, and are prominent in the matted network, together with actin filaments. The major proteins of the residue are identified by SDS-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis as actin, a 56000 Dalton peptide, and histones. Also present are myosin heavy chain, peptides of 225,000 and 250,000, and minor bands at 60,000 and 94,000 Daltons. The non-ionic detergent extracts 70% of the cellular protein, including 50% of the actin and 75% of the myosin. The Triton-insoluble fraction of 3T3 cells appears to constitute, in addition to the nucleus, a stable cytoskeletal system, composed largely of contractile proteins and 10-nm filaments, which functions in maintenance of cell shape, in substratum adhesion, and in positioning the nucleus within the cell.

This content is only available via PDF.