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Immunofluorescence and cytochemical studies have demonstrated that filamentous actin is mainly localized in the cortical surface of the chromaffin cell. It has been suggested that these actin filament networks act as a barrier to the secretory granules, impeding their contact with the plasma membrane. Stimulation of chromaffin cells produces a disassembly of actin filament networks, implying the removal of the barrier. The presence of gelsolin and scinderin, two Ca(2+)- dependent actin filament severing proteins, in the cortical surface of the chromaffin cells, suggests the possibility that cell stimulation brings about activation of one or more actin filament severing proteins with the consequent disruption of actin networks. Therefore, biochemical studies and fluorescence microscopy experiments with scinderin and gelsolin antibodies and rhodamine-phalloidin, a probe for filamentous actin, were performed in cultured chromaffin cells to study the distribution of scinderin, gelsolin, and filamentous actin during cell stimulation and to correlate the possible changes with catecholamine secretion. Here we report that during nicotinic stimulation or K(+)-evoked depolarization, subcortical scinderin but not gelsolin is redistributed and that this redistribution precedes catecholamine secretion. The rearrangement of scinderin in patches is mediated by nicotinic receptors. Cell stimulation produces similar patterns of distribution of scinderin and filamentous actin. However, after the removal of the stimulus, the recovery of scinderin cortical pattern of distribution is faster than F-actin reassembly, suggesting that scinderin is bound in the cortical region of the cell to a component other than F-actin. We also demonstrate that peripheral actin filament disassembly and subplasmalemmal scinderin redistribution are calcium-dependent events. Moreover, experiments with an antibody against dopamine-beta-hydroxylase suggest that exocytosis sites are preferentially localized to areas of F-actin disassembly.