Light diffraction spectra from single or small bundles of skinned striated muscle fibers show large changes in polarization properties when muscles are placed into rigor. The technique of combining optical diffraction and ellipsometry measurements has previously been shown by Yeh and Pinsky to be a sensitive probe of periodic anisotropic regions of the fiber. In the present work, using this method, the observed spectrum shows marked decrease in the measured phase angle, delta, as the fiber approaches the rigor state. The degree of phase angle change is a function of sarcomere length: Maximum overlap of approximately 2.3 microns gives the most change in delta a delta delta R-R approximately 35 degrees decrease for a bundle of three fibers. At a sarcomere length of 2.9 microns this delta delta R-R value is only 10 degrees. At a nonoverlapping length of approximately 3.8 microns, delta does not vary at all upon the removal of ATP. The rigor state was confirmed by stiffness measurements made after small-amplitude (0.75%), quick length changes. Upon re-relaxation, the stiffness of the skinned fiber decreased to the value of the resting state (4 mM ATP) and the phase angle delta returned to its original value. A model based on either anisotropic subunit-2 (S-2) movements or other cross-bridge-related structural anisotropy (form birefringence) changes during the relaxed-rigor transition is suggested.
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