A procedure has been developed for isolating and negatively staining vertebrate skeletal muscle thick filaments that preserves the arrangement of the myosin crossbridges. Electron micrographs of these filaments showed a clear periodicity associated with crossbridges with an axial repeat of 42.9 nm. Optical diffraction patterns of these images showed clear layer lines and were qualitatively similar to published x-ray diffraction patterns, except that the 1/14.3-nm meridional reflection was somewhat weaker. Computer image analysis of negatively stained images of these filaments has enabled the number of strands to be established unequivocally. Both reconstructed images from layer line data and analysis of the phases of the inner maxima of the first layer line are consistent only with a three-stranded structure and cannot be reconciled with either two- or four-stranded models.

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