Load-dependent kinetics of force production by smooth muscle myosin measured with optical tweezers

Nat Cell Biol. 2003 Nov;5(11):980-6. doi: 10.1038/ncb1060. Epub 2003 Oct 26.


Muscle contraction is driven by the cyclical interaction of myosin with actin, coupled with ATP hydrolysis. Myosin attaches to actin, forming a crossbridge that produces force and movement as it tilts or rocks into subsequent bound states before finally detaching. It has been hypothesized that the kinetics of one or more of these mechanical transitions are dependent on load, allowing muscle to shorten quickly under low load, but to sustain tension economically, with slowly cycling crossbridges under high load conditions. The idea that muscle biochemistry depends on mechanical output is termed the 'Fenn effect'. However, the molecular details of how load affects the kinetics of a single crossbridge are unknown. Here, we describe a new technique based on optical tweezers to rapidly apply force to a single smooth muscle myosin crossbridge. The crossbridge produced movement in two phases that contribute 4 nm + 2 nm of displacement. Duration of the first phase depended in an exponential manner on the amplitude of applied load. Duration of the second phase was much less affected by load, but was significantly shorter at high ATP concentration. The effect of load on the lifetime of the bound crossbridge is to prolong binding when load is high, but to accelerate release when load is low or negative.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Chickens
  • Hydrolysis
  • Kinetics
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Muscle, Smooth / metabolism
  • Muscle, Smooth / physiology*
  • Myosins / metabolism
  • Myosins / physiology*
  • Optics and Photonics*
  • Physical Stimulation


  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Myosins