Dependence of thick filament structure in relaxed mammalian skeletal muscle on temperature and interfilament spacing

Marco Caremani, Luca Fusi, Marco Linari, Massimo Reconditi, Gabriella Piazzesi, Thomas C. Irving, Theyencheri Narayanan, Malcolm Irving, Vincenzo Lombardi, Elisabetta Brunello

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20 Citations (Scopus)


Contraction of skeletal muscle is regulated by structural changes in both actin-containing thin filaments and myosin-containing thick filaments, but myosin-based regulation is unlikely to be preserved after thick filament isolation, and its structural basis remains poorly characterized. Here, we describe the periodic features of the thick filament structure in situ by high-resolution small-angle x-ray diffraction and interference. We used both relaxed demembranated fibers and resting intact muscle preparations to assess whether thick filament regulation is preserved in demembranated fibers, which have been widely used for previous studies. We show that the thick filaments in both preparations exhibit two closely spaced axial periodicities, 43.1 nm and 45.5 nm, at near-physiological temperature. The shorter periodicity matches that of the myosin helix, and x-ray interference between the two arrays of myosin in the bipolar filament shows that all zones of the filament follow this periodicity. The 45.5-nm repeat has no helical component and originates from myosin layers closer to the filament midpoint associated with the titin super-repeat in that region. Cooling relaxed or resting muscle, which partially mimics the effects of calcium activation on thick filament structure, disrupts the helical order of the myosin motors, and they move out from the filament backbone. Compression of the filament lattice of demembranated fibers by 5% Dextran, which restores interfilament spacing to that in intact muscle, stabilizes the higher-temperature structure. The axial periodicity of the filament backbone increases on cooling, but in lattice-compressed fibers the periodicity of the myosin heads does not follow the extension of the backbone. Thick filament structure in lattice-compressed demembranated fibers at near-physiological temperature is similar to that in intact resting muscle, suggesting that the native structure of the thick filament is largely preserved after demembranation in these conditions, although not in the conditions used for most previous studies with this preparation.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere202012713
JournalThe Journal of general physiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021


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