Titin is a giant filamentous polypeptide of multidomain Construction spanning between the Z- and M-lines of the cardiac muscle sarcomere. Extension of the I-band segment of titin gives rise to a force that underlies part of the diastolic force of cardiac muscle. Titin's force arises from its extensible I-band region, which consists of two main segment types: serially linked immunoglobulin-like domains (tandem Ig segments) interrupted with a proline (P)-, glutamate (E)-, valine (V)-, and lysine (K)-rich segment called PEVK segment. In addition to these segments, the extensible region of cardiac titin also contains a unique 572-residue sequence that is part of the cardiac-specific N2B element. In this work, immunoelectron microscopy was used to study the molecular origin of the in vivo extensibility of the I-band region of cardiac titin. The extensibility of the tandem Ig segments, the PEVK segment, and that of the unique N2B sequence were studied, using novel antibodies against Ig domains that flank these segments. Results show that only the tandem Igs extend at sarcomere lengths (SLs) below ~2.0 μm, and that, at longer SLs, the PEVK and the unique sequence extend as well. At the longest SLs that may be reached under physiological conditions (~2.3 μm), the PEVK segment length is ~50 nm whereas the unique N2B sequence is ~80 nm long. Thus, the unique sequence provides additional extensibility to cardiac titins and this may eliminate the necessity for unfolding of Ig domains under physiological conditions. In summary, this work provides direct evidence that the three main molecular subdomains of N2B titin are all extensible and that their contribution to extensibility decreases in the order of tandem Igs, unique N2B sequence, and PEVK segment.
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