Functions of cytoplasmic fibers in intracellular movements in BHK-21 cells

Eugenia Wang*, Robert D. Goldman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


After trypsinization and replating, BHK-21 cells spread and change shape from a rounded to a fibroblastic form. Time-lapse movies of spreading cells reveal that organelles are redistributed by saltatory movements from a juxtanuclear position into the expanding regions of cytoplasm. Bidirectional saltations are seen along the long axes of fully spread cells. As the spreading process progresses, the pattern of saltatory movements changes and the average speed of saltations increases from 1.7 µm/s during the early stages of spreading to 2.3 txm/s in fully spread cells. Correlative electron microscope studies indicate that the patterns of saltatory movements that lead to the redistribution of organelles during spreading are closely related to changes in the degree of assembly, organization, and distribution of microtubules and 10-nm filaments. Colchicine (10 µg/ml of culture medium) reversibly disassembles the microtubule-10-nm filament complexes which form during cell spreading. This treatment results in the disappearance of microtubules and the appearance of a juxtanuclear accumulation of 10-nm filaments. These changes closely parallel an inhibition of saltatory movements. Within 30 rain after the addition of the colchicine, pseudopod-like extensions form rapidly at the cell periphery, and adjacent organelles are seen to stream into them. The pseudopods contain extensive arrays of actinlike microfilament bundles which bind skeletal-muscle heavy meromyosin (HMM). Therefore, in the presence of colchicine, intracellular movements are altered from a normal saltatory pattern into a pattern reminiscent of the type of cytoplasmic streaming seen in amoeboid organisms. The streaming may reflect either the activity or the contractility of submembranous microfilament bundles. Streaming activity is not seen in cells containing well-organized microtubule-10-nm filament complexes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)708-726
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Cell Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1 1978


  • 10-nm filaments
  • Cytoplasmic streaming
  • Microfilaments
  • Microtubules
  • Saltatory movements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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