We have completely sequenced a gene encoding the heavy chain of myosin II, a nonmuscle myosin from the soil ameba Acanthamoeba castellanii. The gene spans 6 kb, is split by three small introns, and encodes a 1,509-residue heavy chain polypeptide. The positions of the three introns are largely conserved relative to characterized vertebrate and invertebrate muscle myosin genes. The deduced myosin II globular head amino acid sequence shows a high degree of similarity with the globular head sequences of the rat embryonic skeletal muscle and nematode unc 54 muscle myosins. By contrast, there is no unique way to align the deduced myosin II rod amino acid sequence with the rod sequence of these muscle myosins. Nevertheless, the periodicities of hydrophobic and charged residues in the myosin II rod sequence, which dictate the coiled-coil structure of the rod and its associations within the myosin filament, are very similar to those of the muscle myosins. We conclude that this ameba nonmuscle myosin shares with the muscle myosins of vertebrates and invertebrates an ancestral heavy chain gene. The low level of direct sequence similarity between the rod sequences of myosin II and muscle myosins probably reflects a general tolerance for residue changes in the rod domain (as long as the periodicities of hydrophobic and charged residues are largely maintained), the relative evolutionary "ages" of these myosins, and specific differences between the filament properties of myosin II and muscle myosins. Finally, sequence analysis and electron microscopy reveal the presence within the myosin II rodlike tail of a well-defined hinge region where sharp bending can occur. We speculate that this hinge may play a key role in mediating the effect of heavy chain phosphorylation on enzymatic activity.

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