Effect of capping protein, CapZ, on the length of actin filaments and mechanical properties of actin filament networks

Jingyuan Xu, James F. Casella, Thomas D. Pollard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We report on how physiological concentrations of capping protein shorten actin filaments and on the remarkably fluid nature of solutions of such short filaments even at the high concentrations that exist in cells. We measured the lengths of actin filaments formed by spontaneous polymerization of highly purified actin monomers by fluorescence microscopy after labeling with rhodamine-phalloidin. The length distributions are exponential with a mean of about 7 μm (2600 subunits). As observed previously with less quantitative assays, copolymerization with the actin capping protein, CapZ, reduces the length of the filaments. At cellular concentrations of capping protein, one filament forms for each molecule of capping protein and the population of filaments is uniformly short. Using CapZ to vary the length of actin filaments, we measured how their mechanical properties depend on length. The stiffness (elastic modulus) of actin filament networks depends steeply on the length, with long filaments contributing far out of proportion to their numbers to the stiffness. Even at physiological concentrations (300 μM), networks of filaments limited to lengths observed in cells with a 1 to 500 molar ratio of CapZ are more fluid and much less elastic than lower concentrations of longer actin filaments. Thus the high concentration of short actin filaments in cells must be crosslinked to produce the observed stiffness of the cortex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-81
Number of pages9
JournalCell Motility and the Cytoskeleton
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1999


  • Actin
  • CapZ
  • Capping protein
  • Filaments
  • Mechanical properties
  • Rheology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Effect of capping protein, CapZ, on the length of actin filaments and mechanical properties of actin filament networks'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this