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J Mol Biol. 1983 Sep 15;169(2):469-506.

Changes in the X-ray reflections from contracting muscle during rapid mechanical transients and their structural implications.


During normal contractions of vertebrate striated muscle, it is believed that the cross-bridges which produce the sliding force undergo asynchronous cyclical changes in their structure. Thus, an X-ray diffraction diagram from a muscle under these conditions will give structural information averaged over the whole range of cross-bridge states. Such diagrams show characteristic and informative differences from those given by relaxed muscle, but can give little information about changes in the configuration of the cross-bridges at different stages of their working stroke. However, it is possible to effect a partial synchronization of these changes by applying very rapid changes in length, completed in less than one millisecond to an otherwise isometrically contracting muscle. If the amplitude of these length changes is comparable to the length of the cross-bridge stroke (say 100 A per half-sarcomere), then it should bring about a transient but significant redistribution of cross-bridge states, which would show up in the X-ray diagram. We have made use of synchrotron radiation as a high intensity X-ray source in order to record such patterns with the necessary time resolution (1 ms or less) and have found major changes in the intensity of the 143 A meridional reflection accompanying the rapid length changes of the muscle. These changes appear to arise from specific configurational changes in the cross-bridges during the working stroke. A model is suggested in which the 143 A meridional intensity in a contracting muscle arises mainly from attached cross-bridges and is generated by the part of the myosin head near the S1-S2 junction. During normal contraction, cross-bridges go through their structural cycle asynchronously with each other, since they start at different times, but if the S2 changes in length rather little, then the configurational changes in the myosin heads are synchronized with the actin filament movement in such a way that the S1-S2 junction remains relatively fixed in its axial position. In a quick release, it is suggested that bringing many S1 heads simultaneously to the end of their working strokes on actin disrupts the 143 A axial repeat of their distal ends near S2, and brings about the large decrease of the 143 A meridional reflection. This model therefore involves a large change in the position of part of the myosin head structure relative to actin during the working stroke of the cross-bridge.

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