We have developed a new technique for measurements of piconewton forces and nanometer displacements in the millisecond time range caused by actin- myosin interaction in vitro by manipulating single actin filaments with a glass microneedle. Here, we describe in full the details of this method. Using this method, the elementary events in energy transduction by the actomyosin motor, driven by ATP hydrolysis, were directly recorded from multiple and single molecules. We found that not only the velocity but also the force greatly depended on the orientations of myosin relative to the actin filament axis. Therefore, to avoid the effects of random orientation of myosin and association of myosin with an artificial substrate in the surface motility assay, we measured forces and displacements by myosin molecules correctly oriented in single synthetic myosin rod cofilaments. At a high myosin-to-rod ratio, large force fluctuations were observed when the actin filament interacted in the correct orientation with a cofilament. The noise analysis of the force fluctuations caused by a small number of heads showed that the myosin head generated a force of 5.9 ± 0.8 pN at peak and 2.1 ± 0.4 pN on average over the whole ATPase cycle. The rate constants for transitions into (k+) and out of (k-) the force generation state and the duty ratio were 12 ± 2 s-1, and 22 ± 4 s-1, and 0.36 ± 0.07, respectively. The stiffness was 0.14 pN nm-1 head-1 for slow length change (100 Hz), which would be approximately 0.28 pN nm-1 head-1 for rapid length change or in rigor. At a very low myosin-to-rod ratio, distinct actomyosin attachment, force generation (the power stroke), and detachment events were directly detected. At high load, one power stroke generated a force spike with a peak value of 5-6 pN and a duration of 50 ms (k--1), which were compatible with those of individual myosin heads deduced from the force fluctuations. As the load was reduced, the force of the power stroke decreased and the needle displacement increased. At near zero load, the mean size of single displacement spikes, i.e., the unitary steps caused by correctly oriented myosin, which were corrected for the stiffness of the needle-to-myosin linkage and the randomizing effect by the thermal vibration of the needle, was approximately 20 nm.
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