Chicken gizzard smooth muscle contains two major calmodulin-binding proteins: caldesmon (11.1 microM; Mr 141 000) and myosin light-chain kinase (4.6 microM; Mr 136 000), both of which are associated with the contractile apparatus. The amino acid composition of caldesmon is distinct from that of myosin light-chain kinase and is characterized by a very high glutamic acid content (25.5%), high contents of lysine (13.6%) and arginine (10.3%), and a low aromatic amino acid content (2.4%). Caldesmon lacked myosin light-chain kinase and phosphatase activities and did not compete with either myosin light-chain kinase or cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase (both calmodulin-dependent enzymes) for available calmodulin, suggesting that calmodulin may have distinct binding sites for caldesmon on the one hand and myosin light-chain kinase and cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase on the other. Consistent with the lack of effect of caldesmon on myosin phosphorylation, caldesmon did not affect the assembly or disassembly of myosin filaments in vitro. As previously shown [Ngai & Walsh (1984) J. Biol. Chem. 259, 13656-13659], caldesmon can be reversibly phosphorylated. The phosphorylation and dephosphorylation of caldesmon were further characterized and the Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent caldesmon kinase was purified; kinase activity correlated with a protein of subunit Mr 93 000. Caldesmon was not a substrate of myosin light-chain kinase or phosphorylase kinase, both calmodulin-activated protein kinases.

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