The role of adenosine 5'-triphosphate (ATP) in the Mg2+-induced conformational change of rabbit skeletal muscle G-actin has been investigated by comparing actin containing bound ADP with actin containing bound ATP. As previously described [Frieden, C. (1982) J. Biol. Chem. 257, 2882-2886], N-acetyl-N-(5-sulfo-l-naphthyl)ethylenediamine-labeled G-actin containing ATP undergoes a time-dependent Mg2+-induced fluorescence change that reflects a conformational change in the actin. Addition of Mg2+ to labeled G-actin containing ADP gives no fluorescence change, suggesting that the conformational change does not occur. The fluorescence change can be restored on the addition of ATP. Examination of the time courses of these experiments suggests that ATP must replace ADP prior to the Mg2+-induced change. The Mg2+-induced polymerization of actin containing ADP is extraordinarily slow compared to that of actin containing ATP. The lack of the Mg2+-induced conformational change, which is an essential step in the Mg2+-induced polymerization, is probably the cause for the very slow polymerization of actin containing ADP. On the other hand, at 20 °C, at pH 8, and in 2 mM Mg2+, the elongation rate from the slow growing end of an actin filament, measured by using the protein brevin to block growth at the fast growing end, is only 4 times slower for actin containing ADP than for actin containing ATP.