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J Physiol. 2009 Sep 15;587(Pt 18):4509-21. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2009.176222. Epub 2009 Aug 3.

Structural changes in myosin motors and filaments during relaxation of skeletal muscle.

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Laboratorio di Fisiologia, Dipartimento di Biologia Evoluzionistica, Universitá di Firenze, Firenze, Italy.


Structural changes in myosin motors and filaments during relaxation from short tetanic contractions of intact single fibres of frog tibialis anterior muscles at sarcomere length 2.14 mum, 4 degrees C were investigated by X-ray diffraction. Force declined at a steady rate for several hundred milliseconds after the last stimulus, while sarcomere lengths remained almost constant. During this isometric phase of relaxation the intensities of the equatorial and meridional M3 X-ray reflections associated with the radial and axial distributions of myosin motors also recovered at a steady rate towards their resting values, consistent with progressive net detachment of myosin motors from actin filaments. Stiffness measurements confirmed that the fraction of motors attached to actin declined at a constant rate, but also revealed a progressive increase in force per motor. The interference fine structure of the M3 reflection suggested that actin-attached myosin motors are displaced towards the start of their working stroke during isometric relaxation. There was negligible recovery of the intensities of the meridional and layer-line reflections associated with the quasi-helical distribution of myosin motors in resting muscle during isometric relaxation, and the 1.5% increase in the axial periodicity of the myosin filament associated with muscle activation was not reversed. When force had decreased to roughly half its tetanus plateau value, the isometric phase of relaxation abruptly ended, and the ensuing chaotic relaxation had an exponential half-time of ca 60 ms. Recovery of the equatorial X-ray intensities was largely complete during chaotic relaxation, but the other X-ray signals recovered more slowly than force.

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