Myosin lever arm orientation in muscle determined with high angular resolution using bifunctional spin labels

Yahor Savich, Benjamin P. Binder, Andrew R. Thompson, David D. Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Despite advances in x-ray crystallography, cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM), and fluorescence polarization, none of these techniques provide high-resolution structural information about the myosin light chain domain (LCD; lever arm) under ambient conditions in vertebrate muscle. Here, we measure the orientation of LCD elements in demembranated muscle fibers by electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) using a bifunctional spin label (BSL) with an angular resolution of 4°. To achieve stereoselective site-directed labeling with BSL, we engineered a pair of cysteines in the myosin regulatory light chain (RLC), either on helix E or helix B, which are roughly parallel or perpendicular to the myosin lever arm, respectively. By exchanging BSL-labeled RLC onto oriented muscle fibers, we obtain EPR spectra from which the angular distributions of BSL, and thus the lever arm, can be determined with high resolution relative to the muscle fiber axis. In the absence of ATP (rigor), each of the two labeled helices exhibits both ordered (σ ∼9-11°) and disordered (σ > 38°) populations. Using these angles to determine the orientation of the lever arm (LCD combined with converter subdomain), we observe that the oriented population corresponds to a lever arm that is perpendicular to the muscle fiber axis and that the addition of ATP in the absence of Ca2+ (inducing relaxation) shifts the orientation to a much more disordered orientational distribution. Although the detected orientation of the myosin light chain lever arm is ∼33° different than predicted from a standard "lever arm down" model based on cryo-EM of actin decorated with isolated myosin heads, it is compatible with, and thus augments and clarifies, fluorescence polarization, x-ray interference, and EM data obtained from muscle fibers. These results establish feasibility for high-resolution detection of myosin LCD rotation during muscle contraction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1007-1016
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of General Physiology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 5 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by National Institutes of Health grants R01AR032961 and R37AG26160 to D. Thomas. Y. Savich was supported by National Institutes of Health grant T32AR007612 and by a University of Minnesota Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Rockefeller University Press. All rights reserved.


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