Localization of the actin crosslinking protein, alpha-actinin, to the cleavage furrow has been previously reported. However, its functions during cytokinesis remain poorly understood. We have analyzed the functions of alpha-actinin during cytokinesis by a combination of molecular manipulations and imaging-based techniques. alpha-actinin gradually dissipated from the cleavage furrow as cytokinesis progressed. Overexpression of alpha-actinin caused increased accumulation of actin filaments because of inhibition of actin turnover, leading to cytokinesis failure. Global depletion of alpha-actinin by siRNA caused a decrease in the density of actin filaments throughout the cell cortex, surprisingly inducing accelerated cytokinesis and ectopic furrows. Local ablation of alpha-actinin induced accelerated cytokinesis specifically at the site of irradiation. Neither overexpression nor depletion of alpha-actinin had an apparent effect on myosin II organization. We conclude that cytokinesis in mammalian cells requires tightly regulated remodeling of the cortical actin network mediated by alpha-actinin in coordination with actomyosin-based cortical contractions.