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Myosin subfragment-1 is sufficient to
move actin filaments in vitro

Yoko Yano Toyoshima, Stephen J. Kron,
Elizabeth M. McNally*, Kenneth R. Niebling,
Chikashi Toyoshima & James A. Spudich

Department of Cell Biology, Stanford University School of Medicine,
Stanford, California 94305, USA
*Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine,
Bronx, New York 10461, USA


The rotating crossbridge model for muscle contraction proposes that force is produced by a change in angle of the crossbridge between the overlapping thick and thin filaments. Myosin, the major component of the thick filament, is comprised of two heavy chains and two pairs of light chains. Together they form two globular heads, which give rise to the crossbridge in muscle, and a coiled-coil rod, which forms the shaft of the thick filament. The isolated head fragment, subfragment-1 (S1), contains the ATPase and actin-binding activities of myosin (Fig.1). Although S1 seems to have the requisite enzymatic activity, direct evidence that S1 is sufficient to drive actin movement has been lacking. It has long been recognized that in vitro assays are an important approach for identifying the elements in muscle responsible for force generation. Hynes et al. showed that beads coated with heavy meromyosin (HMM), a soluble proteolytic fragment of myosin consisting of a part of the rod and the two heads, can move on Nitella actin filaments. Using the myosin-coated surface assay of Kron and Spudich, Harada et al. showed that single-headed myosin filaments bound to glass support movement of actin at nearly the same speed as intact myosin filaments. These studies show that the terminal portion of the rod and the two-headed nature of myosin are not required for movement. To restrict the region responsible for movement further, we have modified the myosin- coated surface assay by replacing the glass surface with a nitrocellulose film. Here we report that myosin filaments, soluble myosin, HMM or S1, when bound to a nitrocellulose film, support actin sliding movement (Fig. 2). That S1 is sufficient to cause sliding movement of actin filaments in vitro gives strong support to models of contraction that place the site of active movement in muscle within the myosin head.