We have determined diffusion coefficients for small (50- to 70-nm diameter) fluorescein-thiocarbamoyl-labeled Ficoll tracers through F-actin as a function of filament length and cross-linking. fx45 was used to regulate filament length and avidin/biotinylated actin or ABP-280 was used to prepare cross-linked actin gels. We found that tracer diffusion was generally independent of filament length in agreement with theoretical predictions for diffusion through solutions of rods. However, in some experiments diffusion was slower through short (≤1.0 μm) filaments, although this result was not consistently reproducible. Measured diffusion coefficients through unregulated F-actin and filaments of lengths > 1.0 μm were more rapid than predicted by theory for tracer diffusion through rigid, random networks, which was consistent with some degree of actin bundling. Avidin-induced cross-linking of biotinylated F-actin did not affect diffusion through unregulated F-actin, but in cases where diffusion was slower through short filaments this cross-linking method resulted in enhanced tracer diffusion rates indistinguishable from unregulated F-actin. This finding, in conjunction with increased turbidity of 1.0-μm filaments upon avidin cross- linking, indicated that this cross-linking method induces F-actin bundling. By contrast, ABP-280 cross-linking retarded diffusion through unregulated F- actin and decreased turbidity. Tracer diffusion under these conditions was well approximated by the diffusion theory. Both cross-linking procedures resulted in gel formation as determined by falling ball viscometry. These results demonstrate that network microscopic geometry is dependent on the cross-linking method, although both methods markedly increase F-actin macroscopic viscosity.
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