Regulatory myosins are controlled through mechanisms intrinsic to their structures and can alternate between activated and inhibited states. However, the structural difference between these two states is unclear. Scallop (Pecten maximus) striated adductor myosin is activated directly by calcium. It has been proposed that the two heads of scallop myosin are symmetrically arranged and interact through their regulatory light chains [Offer and Knight (1996) J. Mol. Biol. 256, 407–416], the interface being strengthened in the inhibited state. By contrast, vertebrate smooth-muscle myosin is activated by phosphorylation. Its structure in the inhibited state has been determined from two-dimensional crystalline arrays [Wendt, Taylor, Trybus and Taylor (2001) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 98, 4361–4366] and is asymmetric, requiring no interaction between regulatory light chains. Using site-directed mutagenesis of the scallop regulatory light chain, we have tested the symmetric model for scallop adductor muscle myosin. Specifically, we have made myosin hybrid molecules from scallop (P. maximus) myosin, in which the normal regulatory light chains have been replaced by expressed light chains containing mutations in three residues proposed to participate in the interaction between regulatory light chains. The mutations were R126A (Arg126→Ala), K130A and E131A; made singly, in pairs or all three together, these mutations were designed to eliminate hydrogen bonding or salt linkages between heads, which are key features of this model. Functional assays to address the competence of these hybrid myosins to bind calcium specifically, to exhibit a calcium-regulated myofibrillar Mg-ATPase and to display calcium-dependent actin sliding were performed. We conclude that the symmetrical model does not describe the inhibited state of scallop regulatory myosin and that an asymmetric structure is a plausible alternative.

Abbreviations used: E-LC, myosin essential light chain; HC, myosin heavy chain; R-LC, myosin regulatory light chain.

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