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Biophys J. 1998 May;74(5):2459-73.

The stiffness of skeletal muscle in isometric contraction and rigor: the fraction of myosin heads bound to actin.

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Department of Physiological Sciences, University of Florence, Italy.


Step changes in length (between -3 and +5 nm per half-sarcomere) were imposed on isolated muscle fibers at the plateau of an isometric tetanus (tension T0) and on the same fibers in rigor after permeabilization of the sarcolemma, to determine stiffness of the half-sarcomere in the two conditions. To identify the contribution of actin filaments to the total half-sarcomere compliance (C), measurements were made at sarcomere lengths between 2.00 and 2.15 microm, where the number of myosin cross-bridges in the region of overlap between the myosin filament and the actin filament remains constant, and only the length of the nonoverlapped region of the actin filament changes with sarcomere length. At 2.1 microm sarcomere length, C was 3.9 nm T0(-1) in active isometric contraction and 2.6 nm T0(-1) in rigor. The actin filament compliance, estimated from the slope of the relation between C and sarcomere length, was 2.3 nm microm(-1) T0(-1). Recent x-ray diffraction experiments suggest that the myosin filament compliance is 1.3 nm microm(-1) T0(-1). With these values for filament compliance, the difference in half-sarcomere compliance between isometric contraction and rigor indicates that the fraction of myosin cross-bridges attached to actin in isometric contraction is not larger than 0.43, assuming that cross-bridge elasticity is the same in isometric contraction and rigor.

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