Force-Dependent Recruitment from the Myosin Off State Contributes to Length-Dependent Activation

Kenneth S. Campbell, Paul M.L. Janssen, Stuart G. Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Cardiac muscle develops more force when it is activated at longer lengths. The concentration of Ca2+ required to develop half-maximal force also decreases. These effects are known as length-dependent activation and are thought to play critical roles in the Frank-Starling relationship and cardiovascular homeostasis. The molecular mechanisms underpinning length-dependent activation remain unclear, but recent experiments suggest that they may include recruitment of myosin heads from the off (sometimes called super-relaxed) state. This manuscript presents a mathematical model of muscle contraction that was developed to investigate this hypothesis. Myosin heads in the model transitioned between an off state (that could not interact with actin), an on state (that could bind to actin), and a single attached state. Simulations were fitted to experimental data using multidimensional parameter optimization. Statistical analysis showed that a model in which the rate of the off-to-on transition increased linearly with force reproduced the length-dependent behavior of chemically permeabilized myocardium better than a model with a constant off-to-on transition rate (F-test, p < 0.001). This result suggests that the thick-filament transitions are modulated by force. Additional calculations showed that the model incorporating a mechanosensitive thick filament could also reproduce twitch responses measured in a trabecula stretched to different lengths. A final set of simulations was then used to test the model. These calculations predicted how reducing passive stiffness would impact the length dependence of the calcium sensitivity of contractile force. The prediction (a 60% reduction in ΔpCa50) mimicked the 58% reduction in ΔpCa50 in myocardium from rats that expressed a giant isoform of titin and had low resting tension. Together, these computational results suggest that force-dependent recruitment of myosin heads from the thick-filament off state contributes to length-dependent activation and the Frank-Starling relationship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)543-553
Number of pages11
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 7 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Biophysical Society

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics


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