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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Oct 29;99(22):14159-64. Epub 2002 Oct 17.

Role of the lever arm in the processive stepping of myosin V.

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Department of Biochemistry, Stanford University Medical Center, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Myosin V is a two-headed molecular motor that binds six light chains per heavy chain, which creates unusually long lever arms. This motor moves processively along its actin track in discrete 36-nm steps. Our model is that one head of the two-headed myosin V tightly binds to actin and swings its long lever arm through a large angle, providing a stroke. We created single-headed constructs with different-size lever arms and show that stroke size is proportional to lever arm length. In a two-headed molecule, the stroke provides the directional bias, after which the unbound head diffuses to find its binding site, 36 nm forward. Our two-headed construct with all six light chains per head reconstitutes the 36-nm processive step seen in tissue-purified myosin V. Two-headed myosin V molecules with only four light chains per head are still processive, but their step size is reduced to 24 nm. A further reduction in the length of the lever arms to one light chain per head results in a motor that is unable to walk processively. This motor produces single small approximately 6-nm strokes, and ATPase and pyrene actin quench measurements show that only one of the heads of this dimer rapidly binds to actin for a given binding event. These data show that for myosin V with its normal proximal tail domain, both heads and a long lever arm are required for large, processive steps.

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