Chemomechanical transduction was studied in single fibers isolated from human skeletal muscle containing different myosin isoforms. Permeabilized fibers were activated by laser-pulse photolytic release of 1.5 mM ATP from p(3)-1-(2-nitrophenyl)ethylester of ATP. The ATP hydrolysis rate in the muscle fibers was determined with a fluorescently labeled phosphate-binding protein. The effects of varying load and shortening velocity during contraction were investigated. The myosin isoform composition was determined in each fiber by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. At 12 degrees C large variations (three- to fourfold) were found between slow and fast (2A and 2A-2B) fibers in their maximum shortening velocity, peak power output, velocity at which peak power is produced, isometric ATPase activity, and tension cost. Isometric tension was similar in all fiber groups. The ATP consumption rate increased during shortening in proportion to shortening velocity. At 12 degrees C the maximum efficiency was similar (0.21-0.27) for all fiber types and was reached at a higher speed of shortening for the faster fibers. In all fibers, peak efficiency increased to approximately 0.4 when the temperature was raised from 12 degrees C to 20 degrees C. The results were simulated with a kinetic scheme describing the ATPase cycle, in which the rate constant controlling ADP release is sensitive to the load on the muscle. The main difference between slow and fast fibers was reproduced by increasing the rate constant for the hydrolysis step, which was rate limiting at low loads. Simulation of the effect of increasing temperature required an increase in the force per cross-bridge and an acceleration of the rate constants in the reaction pathway.