We used a series of COOH-terminally deleted recombinant myosin molecules to map precisely the binding sites of 22 monoclonal antibodies along the tail of Acanthamoeba myosin-II. These antibodies bind to 14 distinguishable epitopes, some separated by less than 10 amino acids. The positions of the binding sites visualized by electron microscopy agree only approximately with the physical positions of these sites on the alpha-helical coiled-coil tail. On the other hand, the epitope map agrees precisely with competitive binding studies: all antibodies that share an epitope compete with each other for binding to myosin. Antibodies with adjacent epitopes can compete with each other at linear distances up to 5 or 6 nm, and many antibodies that bind 3-7-nm apart can enhance the binding of each other to myosin. Most of the antibodies that bind to the distal 37 nm of the tail disrupt assembly of octameric minifilaments and, depending upon the exact location of the binding site, stop assembly at specific steps yielding, for example, monomers, antiparallel dimers, parallel dimers or antiparallel tetramers. The effects of these antibodies on assembly identify sites on the tail that are required for individual steps in minifilament assembly. Experiments on the assembly of truncated myosin-II tails have revealed a complementary group of sites that participate in the assembly reactions (Sinard, J.H., D.L. Rimm, and T.D. Pollard. 1990. J. Cell Biol. 111:2417-2426). Antibodies that bind to the distal tail but do not affect assembly appear to have a low affinity for myosin-II. Antibodies that bind to the proximal 50 nm of the tail do not inhibit the assembly of minifilaments. Many antibodies that bind to the tail of myosin-II, even some that have no obvious effect on minifilament assembly, can inhibit the actomyosin ATPase activity and the contraction of an actin gel formed in crude extracts. An antibody that binds between amino acids 1447 and 1467 inhibits the phosphorylation of serine residues distal to residue 1483.

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