Half-sarcomere dynamics in myofibrils during activation and relaxation studied by tracking fluorescent markers

Biophys J. 2006 Jan 15;90(2):514-30. doi: 10.1529/biophysj.105.070334. Epub 2005 Oct 20.


To study the dynamics of individual half-sarcomeres in striated muscle contraction, myofibrils prepared from rabbit psoas muscle and left ventricles of guinea pig were immunostained with two conjugated antibody complexes consisting of a primary antibody against either alpha-actinin or myomesin and a secondary fluorescently labeled Fab-fragment. We simultaneously measured force kinetics and determined the positions of the Z-line and M-band signals by fluorescence video microscopy and sophisticated computer vision (tracking) algorithms. Upon calcium activation, sarcomeres and half-sarcomeres shortened nonuniformly. Shortening occurred first rapidly and exponentially during the force rise and then slowly during the force plateau. In psoas myofibrils, time-resolved displacements of the A-band in sarcomeres were observed, i.e., the two halves of individual sarcomeres behaved nonuniformly. Nonuniformity in length changes between the two halves of sarcomeres was comparable to that between two adjacent half-sarcomeres of neighboring sarcomeres. Sequential lengthening of half-sarcomeres was observed in cardiac myofibrils during the rapid phase of force relaxation. The independent dynamics of the halves in a sarcomere reveals the half-sarcomere as the functional unit rather than the structural unit, the sarcomere. The technique will facilitate the study of filament sliding within individual half-sarcomeres and the mechanics of intersegmental chemomechanical coupling in multisegmental striated muscles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actinin / chemistry
  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Connectin
  • Dithiothreitol / pharmacology
  • Fluorescent Dyes / pharmacology
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Heart Ventricles / metabolism
  • Kinetics
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Models, Biological
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Muscle Proteins / chemistry
  • Muscles / metabolism
  • Myocardium / metabolism
  • Myofibrils / chemistry*
  • Oscillometry
  • Rabbits
  • Sarcomeres / chemistry*
  • Temperature
  • Time Factors


  • Connectin
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Muscle Proteins
  • Actinin
  • Calcium
  • Dithiothreitol