The troponin complex and regulation of muscle contraction

FASEB J. 1995 Jun;9(9):755-67. doi: 10.1096/fasebj.9.9.7601340.


In a wide variety of cellular settings, from organelle transport to muscle contraction, Ca2+ binding to members of the EF hand family of proteins controls the interaction between actin and different myosins that are responsible for generating movement. In vertebrate skeletal and cardiac muscle the Ca(2+)-binding protein troponin C (TnC) is one subunit of the ternary troponin complex which, through its association with actin and tropomyosin on the thin filament, inhibits the actomyosin interaction at submicromolar Ca2+ concentrations and stimulates the interaction at micromolar Ca2+ concentrations. Because TnC does not interact directly with actin or tropomyosin, the Ca(2+)-binding signal must be transmitted to the thin filament via the other two troponin subunits: troponin I (TnI), the inhibitory subunit, and troponin T (TnT), the tropomyosin-binding subunit. Thus, the troponin complex is a Ca(2+)-sensitive molecular switch and the structures of and interactions between its components have been of great interest for many years. Although the crystal structure of TnC has been known for almost a decade, the molecular structures of TnI and TnT are not known and therefore convincing models of the organization of the troponin complex and the Ca(2+)-induced changes in its structure have not been forthcoming. Recent advances on a wide variety of fronts including 1) the bacterial expression and characterization of mutants of TnC, TnI, and TnT; 2) cross-linking and fluorescence studies; and 3) the determination of the crystal and nuclear magnetic resonance structures of synthetic and recombinant troponin fragments and complexes between EF hand proteins and their target peptides have provided new insights into the nature of the interactions between troponin subunits. This review discusses these recent advances with the aim of critically assessing molecular models of the nature of the Ca(2+)-induced structural transition in troponin.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actomyosin / metabolism
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Sarcomeres / ultrastructure
  • Tropomyosin / metabolism
  • Troponin / metabolism*
  • Troponin C
  • Troponin I


  • Tropomyosin
  • Troponin
  • Troponin C
  • Troponin I
  • Actomyosin
  • Calcium