Actomyosin powers muscle contraction and various cellular activities, including cell division, differentiation, intracellular transport and sensory functions. Despite their crucial roles, key aspects of force generation have remained elusive. To perform efficient force generation, the powerstroke must occur while myosin is bound to actin. Paradoxically, this process must be initiated when myosin is in a very low actin-affinity state. Recent results shed light on a kinetic pathway selection mechanism whereby the actin-induced activation of the swing of myosin's lever enables efficient mechanical functioning. Structural elements and biochemical principles involved in this mechanism are conserved among various NTPase-effector (e.g. kinesin-microtubule, G protein exchange factor and kinase-scaffold protein) systems that perform chemomechanical or signal transduction.
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