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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Oct 9;115(41):10369-10374. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1804726115. Epub 2018 Sep 24.

Nebulin stiffens the thin filament and augments cross-bridge interaction in skeletal muscle.

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Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721.
Department of Biology, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, IL 60616.
Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721;


Nebulin is a giant sarcomeric protein that spans along the actin filament in skeletal muscle, from the Z-disk to near the thin filament pointed end. Mutations in nebulin cause muscle weakness in nemaline myopathy patients, suggesting that nebulin plays important roles in force generation, yet little is known about nebulin's influence on thin filament structure and function. Here, we used small-angle X-ray diffraction and compared intact muscle deficient in nebulin (using a conditional nebulin-knockout, Neb cKO) with control (Ctrl) muscle. When muscles were activated, the spacing of the actin subunit repeat (27 Å) increased in both genotypes; when converted to thin filament stiffness, the obtained value was 30 pN/nm in Ctrl muscle and 10 pN/nm in Neb cKO muscle; that is, the thin filament was approximately threefold stiffer when nebulin was present. In contrast, the thick filament stiffness was not different between the genotypes. A significantly shorter left-handed (59 Å) thin filament helical pitch was found in passive and contracting Neb cKO muscles, as well as impaired tropomyosin and troponin movement. Additionally, a reduced myosin mass transfer toward the thin filament in contracting Neb cKO muscle was found, suggesting reduced cross-bridge interaction. We conclude that nebulin is critically important for physiological force levels, as it greatly stiffens the skeletal muscle thin filament and contributes to thin filament activation and cross-bridge recruitment.


X-ray diffraction; muscle biology; physiology; skeletal myopathy

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