The averaged structure of rigor cross-bridges in insect flight muscle is further revealed by three-dimensional reconstruction from 25-nm sections containing a single layer of thin filaments. These exhibit two thin filament orientations that differ by 60 degrees from each other and from myac layer filaments. Data from multiple tilt views (to +/- 60 degrees) was supplemented by data from thick sections (equivalent to 90 degrees tilts). In combination with the reconstruction from the myac layer (Taylor et al., 1989), the entire unit cell is reconstructed, giving the most complete view of in situ cross-bridges yet obtained. All our reconstructions show two classes of averaged rigor cross-bridges. Lead bridges have a triangular shape with leading edge angled at approximately 45 degrees and trailing edge angled at approximately 90 degrees to the filament axis. We propose that the lead bridge contains two myosin heads of differing conformation bound along one strand of F-actin. The lead bridge is associated with a region of the thin filament that is apparently untwisted. We suggest that the untwisting may reflect the distribution of strain between myosin and actin resulting from two-headed, single filament binding in the lead bridge. Rear bridges are oriented at approximately 90 degrees to the filament axis, and are smaller and more cylindrical, suggesting that they consist of single myosin heads. The rear bridge is associated with a region of apparently normal thin filament twist. We propose that differing myosin head angles and conformations consistently observed in rigor embody different stages of the power stroke which have been trapped by a temporal sequence of rigor cross-bridge formation under the constraints of the intact filament lattice.
We have obtained detailed three-dimensional images of in situ cross-bridge structure in insect flight muscle by electron microscopy of multiple tilt views of single filament layers in ultrathin sections, supplemented with data from thick sections. In this report, we describe the images obtained of the myac layer, a 25-nm longitudinal section containing a single layer of alternating myosin and actin filaments. The reconstruction reveals averaged rigor cross-bridges that clearly separate into two classes constituting lead and rear chevrons within each 38.7-nm axial repeat. These two classes differ in tilt angle, size and shape, density, and slew. This new reconstruction confirms our earlier interpretation of the lead bridge as a two-headed cross-bridge and the rear bridge as a single-headed cross-bridge. The importance of complementing tilt series with additional projections outside the goniometer tilt range is demonstrated by comparison with our earlier myac layer reconstruction. Incorporation of this additional data reveals new details of rigor cross-bridge structure in situ which include clear delineation of (a) a triangular shape for the lead bridge, (b) a smaller size for the rear bridge, and (c) density continuity across the thin filament in the lead bridge. Within actin's regular 38.7-nm helical repeat, local twist variations in the thin filament that correlate with the two cross-bridge classes persist in this new reconstruction. These observations show that in situ rigor cross-bridges are not uniform, and suggest three different myosin head conformations in rigor.