We have investigated the relationship between lamellipodium protrusion and forward translocation of the cell body in the rapidly moving keratocyte. It is first shown that the trailing, ellipsoidal cell body rotates during translocation. This was indicated by the rotation of the nucleus and the movement of cytoplasmic organelles, as well as of exogenously added beads used as markers. Activated or Con A-coated fluorescent beads that were overrun by cells were commonly endocytosed and rotated with the internal organelles. Alternatively, beads applied to the rear of the cell body via a micropipette adhered to the dorsal cell surface and also moved forward, indicating that both exterior and underlying cortical elements participated in rotation. Manipulation of keratocytes with microneedles demonstrated that pushing or restraining the cell body in the direction of locomotion, and squeezing it against the substrate, which temporarily increased the intracellular pressure, did not effect the rate of lamellipodium protrusion. Rotation and translocation of the cell body continued momentarily after arrest of lamellipodium protrusion by cytochalasin B, indicating that these processes were not directly dependent on actin polymerization. The cell body was commonly flanked by phase-dense "axles," extending from the cell body into the lamellipodium. Phalloidin staining showed these to be comprised of actin bundles that splayed forward into the flanks of the lamellipodium. Disruption of the bundles on one side of the nucleus by traumatic microinjection resulted in rapid retraction of the cell body in the opposite direction, indicating that the cell body was under lateral contractile stress. Myosin II, which colocalizes with the actin bundles, presumably provides the basis of tension generation across and traction of the cell body. We propose that the basis of coupling between lamellipodium protrusion and translocation of the cell body is a flow of actin filaments from the front, where they are nucleated and engage in protrusion, to the rear, where they collaborate with myosin in contraction. Myosin-dependent force is presumably transmitted from the ends of the cell body into the flanks of the lamellipodium via the actin bundles. This force induces the spindle-shaped cell body to roll between the axles that are created continuously from filaments supplied by the advancing lamellipodium.