The effects of enhanced HSP27 expression or expression of a nonphosphorylatable form of HSP27 on the migration of bovine arterial endothelial cells was assessed. Expression of the wild-type protein enhanced migration by twofold compared to control transfectants, whereas expression of the mutant protein retarded migration by 40%. Since homologs of the small heat shock protein inhibit F-actin polymerization in vitro and may alter basolateral F-actin content in vivo, it was postulated that the 27 kDa heat shock protein affects microfilament extension essential for cell motility. Expression of the wild-type protein promoted the generation of long cellular extensions, whereas expression of the dominant negative mutant protein resulted in a marked reduction of lamellipodia and generated aberrant microfilament morphology at the wound edge. Immunofluorescence combined with phalloidin staining demonstrated the colocalization of the HSP27 gene products with lamellipodial microfilament structures. These data suggest that the 27 kDa heat shock protein regulates migration by affecting the generation lamellipodia microfilaments.