Segments of briefly glycerinated muscle fibers from Rana pipiens were activated rapidly by a brief exposure to 2.5 mM free calcium followed by a solution containing calcium buffered with EGTA to produce the desired level of force. Steps to isotonic loads were made using a servomotor, usually 3-5 s after the onset of activation. The relative isotonic forces (P/P0) and velocities from contractions obtained under similar circumstances were grouped together and fitted with hyperbolic functions. Under the condition of 6 mM MgCl2 and 5 mM ATP, there was no significant difference in the relative force-velocity relations obtained at full activation compared with those obtained at partial activation when developed force was approximately 40% of its full value. Control experiments showed that a variety of factors did not alter either the relative force-velocity relations or the finding that partial activation did not change these properties. The factors investigated included the decline in force that occurs with each successive contraction of skinned fibers, the segment length (over a range of 1-3 mm), the sarcomere length (over a range of 1.9-2.2 microns), the magnesium ion concentration (26 microM and 1.4 mM were tested), the ATP concentration, the presence of free calcium, and the age of the preparation (up to 30 h). Attempts to repeat earlier experiments by others showing a dependence of shortening velocity on activation were unsuccessful because the low ionic strength used in those experiments caused the fibers to break after a few contractions. The main conclusion, that the shortening velocity is independent of the level of activation, is consistent with the hypothesis that the cross-bridges act independently and that activating calcium acts only as an all-or-none switch for individual cross-bridge attachment sites, and does not otherwise influence the kinetics of cross-bridge movement.

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