Bordas, Joan, Diakun, G.P., Harries, J.E., Lewis, Robert A., Mant, Geoff R., Martin-Fernandez, Maria Luisa and Towns-Andrews, Elizabeth (1991) Two-dimensional time resolved X-ray diffraction of muscle: Recent results. Advances in Biophysics, 27. pp. 15-33. ISSN 0065-227X

This report provides a preliminary sketch of the results obtained in a two-dimensional time resolved X-ray diffraction study of “live” frog sartorius muscles undergoing isometric tetani. These results demonstrate the recently developed capability to record time resolved (10 msec time resolution), two-dimensional X-ray diffraction diagrams throughout the cycle of contraction.

The correlation between the time courses of the diffraction features in the whole of the diffraction diagram establishes a sequence of structural events, which suggest that during the transition from rest to the plateau of tension and the subsequent recovery, the following sequence of events takes place:

1. a) Following the activation phase, which is best monitored by the increase of intensity on the second actin layer line at 18.0 nm spacing (5), there is the onset of three dimensional disorder due to the filaments losing their axial alignment and the myosin heads rotating azimuthally and moving radially outwards. A set of low-angle layer lines, following the actin based spacings seen in rigor (i.e., at spacings of ca. 36.5–37.5, 24.0 and 18.0 nm) become visible and those at ca. 24.0 and 18.0 nm appear to increase in intensity during this phase with a time course that cannot be determined accurately because of the proximity of the neighbouring first, second and third myosin layer lines and the weakness of these diffraction features. Whether the first of these layer lines increases or not is difficult to ascertain. Moreover, proper account of the loss in crystallinity during the development of tension must be made before the comparisons in intensity between the rest and peak of tension states have any significance. Nevertheless, these features together with the behaviour of the equatorial reflections and the meridional region of the third myosin layer line indicate that a sizeable fraction of the crossbridges may become axially disposed with an actin based periodicity. The formation of this complex does not immediately result in the generation of tension. The labelling of the thin filaments is also reflected in the main actin layer lines at 5.9 and 5.1 nm.

2. b) The tension generating phase is monitored by the intensity changes in the meridional region of the third myosin layer line, which are best explained by a change in the orientation/conformation of the tension bearing crossbridges, (which probably adopt a more perpendicular orientation to the filament axis).

3. c) At the end of stimulation, the crossbridges return to an axial spacing and axial orientation (although not yet azimuthal) similar to the one at rest. This is followed by a very slow return to the azimuthal equilibrium position typical of the rest pattern.

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