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One of two proteins responsible for contraction of muscle cells and the motility of other cells. It occurs as a monomer, G-actin, a globular protein, and in living cells as a polymer, F-actin, which resembles two strings of beads twisted around each other into thin filaments. The filaments occur in regular structures, alternated and interwoven with thick filaments that contain myosin, the other major muscle protein. The thick and thin filaments slide past each other, under the control of calcium ions, resulting in contraction (shortening) and relaxation (lengthening) of the muscle cells.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on actin, visit Britannica.com.