Methods for identifying and averaging variable molecular conformations in tomograms of actively contracting insect flight muscle.
During active muscle contraction, tension is generated through many simultaneous, independent interactions between the molecular motor myosin and the actin filaments. The ensemble of myosin motors displays heterogeneous conformations reflecting different mechanochemical steps of the ATPase pathway. We used electron tomography of actively contracting insect flight muscle fast-frozen, freeze substituted, Araldite embedded, thin-sectioned and stained, to obtain 3D snapshots of the multiplicity of actin-attached myosin structures. We describe procedures for alignment of the repeating lattice of sub-volumes (38.7 nm cross-bridge repeats bounded by troponin) and multivariate data analysis to identify self-similar repeats for computing class averages. Improvements in alignment and classification of repeat sub-volumes reveals (for the first time in active muscle images) the helix of actin subunits in the thin filament and the troponin density with sufficient clarity that a quasiatomic model of the thin filament can be built into the class averages independent of the myosin cross-bridges. We show how quasiatomic model building can identify both strong and weak myosin attachments to actin. We evaluate the accuracy of image classification to enumerate the different types of actin-myosin attachments.
Wu, S; Liu, J; Reedy, MC; Winkler, H; Reedy, MK; Taylor, KA
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