The nanomechanical properties of the coiled-coils of myosin are fundamentally important in understanding muscle assembly and contraction. Force spectra of single molecules of double-headed myosin, single-headed myosin, and coiled-coil tail fragments were acquired with an atomic force microscope and displayed characteristic triphasic force-distance responses to stretch: a rise phase (R) and a plateau phase (P) and an exponential phase (E). The R and P phases arise mainly from the stretching of the coiled-coils, with the hinge region being the main contributor to the rise phase at low force. Only the E phase was analyzable by the worm-like chain model of polymer elasticity. Restrained molecular mechanics simulations on an existing x-ray structure of scallop S2 yielded force spectra with either two or three phases, depending on the mode of stretch. It revealed that coiled-coil chains separate completely near the end of the P phase and the stretching of the unfolded chains gives rise to the E phase. Extensive conformational searching yielded a P phase force near 40 pN that agreed well with the experimental value. We suggest that the flexible and elastic S2 region, particularly the hinge region, may undergo force-induced unfolding and extend reversibly during actomyosin powerstroke.
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