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Nature. 1997 May 15;387(6630):308-12.

Elasticity and unfolding of single molecules of the giant muscle protein titin.

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Muscle Research Group, Department of Veterinary Clinical Science, Bristol University, Langford, UK.


The giant muscle protein titin, also called connectin, is responsible for the elasticity of relaxed striated muscle, as well as acting as the molecular scaffold for thick-filament formation. The titin molecule consists largely of tandem domains of the immunoglobulin and fibronectin-III types, together with specialized binding regions and a putative elastic region, the PEVK domain. We have done mechanical experiments on single molecules of titin to determine their visco-elastic properties, using an optical-tweezers technique. On a fast (0.1s) timescale titin is elastic and force-extension data can be fitted with standard random-coil polymer models, showing that there are two main sources of elasticity: one deriving from the entropy of straightening the molecule; the other consistent with extension of the polypeptide chain in the PEVK region. On a slower timescale and above a certain force threshold, the molecule displays stress-relaxation, which occurs in rapid steps of a few piconewtons, corresponding to yielding of internal structures by about 20 nm. This stress-relaxation probably derives from unfolding of immunoglobulin and fibronectin domains.

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