Actin is one of the most highly conserved eukaryotic proteins. There are no amino acid changes between the chicken and human skeletal muscle isoforms, and the most dissimilar actins still share more than 85% sequence identity . We suggest that large discrete internal modes of freedom within the actin filament may account for a significant component of this conservation, since each subunit must make multiple specific interactions with neighboring subunits. In support of this, we find that the same state of tilt of the actin subunit exists in both yeast and vertebrate striated muscle actin, and that in both the two domains undergo a "propeller rotation." A similar movement of domains has also been seen in hexokinase, Hsc70, and Arp2/3, all structural homologs of actin, suggesting that such an interdomain hinge motion is common to proteins in this superfamily. Subunit-subunit interactions within the actin filament involve sequence insertions that are not present in MreB, a bacterial homolog of actin. Remarkably, we find that in the tilted state actin subunits make new contacts with neighboring subunits that also involve these inserts, suggesting a key role for these elements in F-actin polymorphism.