Actin filaments (F-actin) are protein polymers that undergo rapid assembly and disassembly and control an enormous variety of cellular processes ranging from force production to regulation of signal transduction. Consequently, imaging of F-actin has become an increasingly important goal for biologists seeking to understand how cells and tissues function. However, most of the available means for imaging F-actin in living cells suffer from one or more biological or experimental shortcomings. Here we describe fluorescent F-actin probes based on the calponin homology domain of utrophin (Utr-CH), which binds F-actin without stabilizing it in vitro. We show that these probes faithfully report the distribution of F-actin in living and fixed cells, distinguish between stable and dynamic F-actin, and have no obvious effects on processes that depend critically on the balance of actin assembly and disassembly.
(c) 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.