The interaction between myosin subfragment 1 (S1) and actin filaments after the photolysis of P3-1-(2-nitrophenyl)ethyl ester of ATP (caged ATP) was analyzed with a newly developed freezing system using liquid helium. Actin and S1 (100 microM each) formed a ropelike double-helix characteristic of rigor in the presence of 5 mM caged ATP at room temperature. At 15 ms after photolysis, the ropelike double helix was partially disintegrated. The number of S1 attached to actin filaments gradually decreased up to 35 ms after photolysis, and no more changes were detected from 35 to 200 ms. After depletion of ATP, the ropelike double helix was reformed. Taking recent analyses of actomyosin kinetics into consideration, we concluded that most S1 observed on actin filaments at 35-200 ms are so called "weakly bound S1" (S1.ATP or S1.ADP.Pi) and that the weakly bound S1 under a rapid association-dissociation equilibrium with actin filaments can be captured by electron microscopy by means of our newly developed freezing system. This enabled us to directly compare the conformation of weakly and strongly bound S1. Within the resolution of deep-etch replica technique, there were no significant conformational differences between weakly and strongly bound S1, and neither types of S1 showed any positive cooperativity in their binding to actin filaments. Close comparison revealed that the weakly and strongly bound S1 have different angles of attachment to actin filaments. As compared to strongly bound S1, weakly bound S1 showed a significantly broader distribution of attachment angles. These results are discussed with special reference to the molecular mechanism of acto-myosin interaction in the presence of ATP.

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