actin, a protein abundantly present in many cells, especially muscle cells, that significantly contributes to the cell's structure and motility. Actin can very quickly assemble into long polymer rods called microfilaments. These microfilaments have a variety of roles—they form part of the cell's cytoskeleton, they interact with myosin to permit movement of the cell, and they pinch the cell into two during cell division. In muscle contraction, filaments of actin and myosin alternately unlink and chemically link in a sliding action. The energy for this reaction is supplied by adenosine triphosphate.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.