Fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) has been used to measure the diffusion of fluorescently labeled beads in solutions of polymerized actin or buffer. The results, obtained at actin concentrations of 1 mg/ml, show that small beads (0.09 micron in diameter) diffuse nearly as rapidly in the actin gel as in buffer, whereas the largest beads tested (0.5 micron in diameter) are immobilized. Measured autocorrelation times for motions of beads with intermediate sizes show that the diffusion is retarded (relative to buffer) and that the time behavior cannot be represented as a single diffusive process. In addition to the retarded diffusion observed over distances > 1 micron, 0.23-micron beads also show a faster motion over smaller distances. Based on the measured rate of this faster motion, we estimate that the beads may be constrained within a cage approximately 0.67 micron on a side, equal to a filament length of approximately 250 subunits. Fluorescence correlation spectroscopy measurements made in the same small spot (radius of 1.4 microns) of the gel vary over time. From the variations of both the autocorrelation functions and the mean fluorescence, we conclude that, corresponding to a spatial scale of 1.4 microns, the actin gel is a dynamic structure with slow rearrangement of the gel occurring over periods of 20–50 s at 21–22 degrees C. This rearrangement may result from local reorganization of the actin matrix. Data for the retardation of beads by the actin gel are consistent with a detailed theory of the diffusion of particles through solutions of rigid rods that have longitudinal diffusion coefficients much less than that of the particles (Ogston, A. G., B. N. Preston, and J. D. Wells. 1973. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. A. 333:297–316).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1000-1010
Number of pages11
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1992


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