The heart adjusts its power output to meet specific physiological needs through the coordination of several mechanisms, including force-induced changes in contractility of the molecular motor, the β-cardiac myosin (βCM). Despite its importance in driving and regulating cardiac power output, the effect of force on the contractility of a single βCM has not been measured. Using single molecule optical-trapping techniques, we found that βCM has a two-step working stroke. Forces that resist the power stroke slow the myosin-driven contraction by slowing the rate of ADP release, which is the kinetic step that limits fiber shortening. The kinetic properties of βCM are affected by load, suggesting that the properties of myosin contribute to the force-velocity relationship in intact muscle and play an important role in the regulation of cardiac power output.
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