In situ structures from relaxed cardiac myofibrils reveal the organization of the muscle thick filament
Davide Tamborrini, Zhexin Wang, Thorsten Wagner, Sebastian Tacke, Markus Stabrin, Michael Grange, Ay Lin Kho, Martin Rees, Pauline Bennett, Mathias Gautel, Stefan Raunser
Cardiac muscle cells, Myosin
The thick filament is a key component of sarcomeres, the basic force-generating and load-bearing unit of striated muscle1. Mutations in thick filament proteins are associated with familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and other heart and muscle diseases2, 3. Despite this central importance for sarcomere force generation, it remains unclear how thick filaments are structurally organized and how its components interact with each other and with thin filaments to enable highly regulated muscle contraction. Here, we present the molecular architecture of native cardiac sarcomeres in the relaxed state, determined by electron cryo-tomography. Our reconstruction of the thick filament reveals the three-dimensional organization of myosin heads and tails, myosin-binding protein C (MyBP-C) and titin, elucidating the structural basis for their interaction during muscle contraction. The arrangement of myosin heads is variable depending on their position along the filament, suggesting that they have different capacities in terms of strain susceptibility and activation. Myosin tails exhibit a distinct arrangement and pattern of interactions. These are likely orchestrated by three alpha and three beta titin chains that are arranged like a spring, suggesting the existence of specialized roles of thick filament segments in length-dependent activation and contraction. Surprisingly, while the three titin alpha chains run along the entire length of the thick filament, titin beta does not. The structure also demonstrates that the C-terminal region of MyBP-C binds myosin tails and unexpectedly also directly interacts with the myosin heads, suggesting a previously undescribed direct role in the preservation of the myosin OFF state. Furthermore, we visualize how MyBP-C forms links between thin and thick filaments. These findings establish a robust groundwork for forthcoming research endeavors aiming to explore muscle disorders that involve sarcomeric structural components.