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J Physiol. 1999 Jan 15;514 ( Pt 2):305-12.

Changes in conformation of myosin heads during the development of isometric contraction and rapid shortening in single frog muscle fibres.

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Dipartimento di Scienze Fisiologiche, Università degli Studi di Firenze, I-50134 Firenze, Italy.


1. Two-dimensional X-ray diffraction patterns were recorded at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility from central segments of intact single muscle fibres of Rana temporaria with 5 ms time resolution during the development of isometric contraction. Shortening at ca 0.8 times the maximum velocity was also imposed at the isometric tetanus plateau. 2. The first myosin-based layer line (ML1) and the second myosin-based meridional reflection (M2), which are both strong in resting muscle, were completely abolished at the plateau of the isometric tetanus. The third myosin-based meridional reflection (M3), arising from the axial repeat of the myosin heads along the filaments, remained intense but its spacing changed from 14.34 to 14.56 nm. The intensity change of the M3 reflection, IM3, could be explained as the sum of two components, I14.34 and I14.56, arising from myosin head conformations characteristic of rest and isometric contraction, respectively. 3. The amplitudes (A) of the X-ray reflections, which are proportional to the fraction of myosin heads in each conformation, changed with half-times that were similar to that of isometric force development, which was 33.5 +/- 2. 0 ms (mean +/- s.d., 224 tetani from three fibres, 4 C), measured from the end of the latent period. We conclude that the myosin head conformation changes synchronously with force development, at least within the 5 ms time resolution of these measurements. 4. The changes in the X-ray reflections during rapid shortening have two temporal components. The rapid decrease in intensity of the 14.56 nm reflection at the start of shortening is likely to be due to tilting of myosin heads attached to actin. The slower changes in the other reflections were consistent with a return to the resting conformation of the myosin heads that was about 60 % complete after shortening of 70 nm per half-sarcomere.

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