We have used electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy to detect ATP- and calcium-induced changes in the structure of spin-labeled myosin heads in glycerinated rabbit psoas muscle fibers in key physiological states. The probe was a nitroxide iodoacetamide derivative attached selectively to myosin SH1 (Cys 707), the conventional EPR spectra of which have been shown to resolve several conformational states of the myosin ATPase cycle, on the basis of nanosecond rotational motion within the protein. Spectra were acquired in rigor and during the steady-state phases of relaxation and isometric contraction. Spectral components corresponding to specific conformational states and biochemical intermediates were detected and assigned by reference to EPR spectra of trapped kinetic intermediates. In the absence of ATP, all of the myosin heads were rigidly attached to the thin filament, and only a single conformation was detected, in which there was no sub-microsecond probe motion. In relaxation, the EPR spectrum resolved two conformations of the myosin head that are distinct from rigor. These structural states were virtually identical to those observed previously for isolated myosin and were assigned to the populations of the M*.ATP and M**.ADP.Pi states. During isometric contraction, the EPR spectrum resolves the same two conformations observed in relaxation, plus a small fraction (20–30%) of heads in the oriented actin-bound conformation that is observed in rigor. This rigor-like component is a calcium-dependent, actin-bound state that may represent force-generating cross-bridges. As the spin label is located near the nucleotide-binding pocket in a region proposed to be pivotal for large-scale force-generating structural changes in myosin, we propose that the observed spectroscopic changes indicate directly the key steps in energy transduction in the molecular motor of contracting muscle.
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We thank C. A. Miller and K. Beyzavi for their excellent technical assistance and R. L. H. Bennett, F. L. Nisswandt, and E. Howard for computer assistance. This work was supported by grants to D.D.T. from the National Institutes of Health (AR32961) and the Minnesota Supercomputer Institute. E.M.O. was supported by a predoctoral training grant from National Institutes of Health (GM08277-03) and National Science Foundation Research Training Grant (DIR-9113444).