Myosin filaments isolated from scallop striated muscle have been activated by calcium-containing solutions, and their structure has been examined by electron microscopy after negative staining. The orderly helical arrangement of myosin projections characteristic of the relaxed state is largely lost upon activation. The oblique striping that arises from alignment of elongated projections along the long-pitched helical tracks is greatly weakened, although a 145 A axial periodicity is sometimes partially retained. The edges of the filaments become rough, and the myosin heads move outwards as their helical arrangement becomes disordered. Crossbridges at various angles appear to link thick and thin filaments after activation. The transition from order to disorder is reversible and occurs over a narrow range of free calcium concentration near pCa 5.7. Removal of nucleotide, as well as dissociation of regulatory light chains, also disrupts the ordered helical arrangement of projections. We suggest that the relaxed arrangement of the projections is probably maintained by intermolecular interactions between myosin molecules, which depend on the regulatory light chains. Calcium binding changes the interactions between light chains and the rest of the head, activating the myosin molecule. Intermolecular contacts between molecules may thus be altered and may propagate activation cooperatively throughout the thick filament.

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