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J Mol Biol. 2006 Nov 3;363(4):743-61. Epub 2006 Sep 1.

X-ray interference studies of crossbridge action in muscle contraction: evidence from quick releases.

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Rosenstiel Center, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA 02454, USA.


We have used a high-resolution small angle X-ray scattering system, together with a high-performance CCD camera, on the BioCAT beamline at the APS synchrotron radiation facility at the Argonne National Laboratory, to study X-ray interference effects in the meridional reflections generated by the arrays of myosin crossbridges in contracting muscle. These give information about axial movements of the myosin heads during contraction with sub-nanometer resolution. Using whole intact muscle preparations (frog sartorius) we have been able to record the detailed behavior of M3 (the first order meridional reflection from the myosin crossbridges, at 14.56 nm) at each of a number of quick releases of increasing magnitude, on the same specimen, and at the same time make similar measurements on higher order myosin meridional reflections, particularly M6. The latter provides information about the dispersion of lever arm angles of the actin-attached myosin heads. The observations show that in isometric contraction the lever arm angles are dispersed through +/- 20-25 degrees on either side of a mean orientation that is about 60 degrees away from their orientation at the end of the working stroke: and that they move towards that orientation in synchronized fashion, with constant dispersion, during quick releases. The relationship between the shift in the interference fringes (which measures the shift of the myosin heads scattering mass towards the center of the sarcomere, and the changes in the total intensity of the reflections, which measures the changes in the axial profile of the heads, is consistent with the tilting lever arm mechanism of muscle contraction. Significant fixed contributions to the meridional reflections come from unattached myosin heads and from backbone components of the myosin filaments, and the interaction of these with the contributions from actin-attached myosin heads determines the behavior of these reflections.

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