We studied the effect of titin-based passive tension on sarcomere structure by simultaneously measuring passive tension and low-angle x-ray diffraction patterns on passive fiber bundles from rabbit skinned psoas muscle. We used a stretchhold- release protocol with measurement of x-ray diffraction patterns at various passive tension levels during the hold phase before and after passive stress relaxation. Measurements were performed in relaxing solution without and with dextran T-500 to compress the lattice toward physiological levels. The myofilament lattice spacing was measured in the A-band (d1,0) and Z-disk (dZ) regions of the sarcomere. The axial spacing of the thick-filament backbone was determined from the sixth myosin meridional reflection (M6) and the equilibrium positions of myosin heads from the fourth myosin layer line peak position and the I1,1/I1,0 intensity ratio. Total passive tension was measured during the x-ray experiments, and a differential extraction technique was used to determine the relations between collagen- and titin-based passive tension and sarcomere length. Within the employed range of sarcomere lengths (∼2.2-3.4 μm), titin accounted for >80% of passive tension. X-ray results indicate that titin compresses both the A-band and Z-disk lattice spacing with viscoelastic behavior when fibers are swollen after skinning, and elastic behavior when the lattice is reduced with dextran. Titin also increases the axial thick-filament spacing, M6, in an elastic manner in both the presence and absence of dextran. No changes were detected in either I1,1/I1,0 or the position of peaks on the fourth myosin layer line during passive stress relaxation. Passive tension and M6 measurements were converted to thick-filament compliance, yielding a value of ∼85 m/N, which is several-fold larger than the thick-filament compliance determined by others during the tetanic tension plateau of activated intact muscle. This difference can be explained by the fact that thick filaments are more compliant at low tension (passive muscle) than at high tension (tetanic tension). The implications of our findings are discussed.
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