We describe a protocol for the selective covalent labeling of the sulfhydryl 2 (SH2) on the myosin cross-bridge in glycerinated muscle fibers using the sulfhydryl-selective label 4-[N-[(iodoacetoxy)ethyl]-N-methylamino]-7-nitrobenz-2-oxa-1,3-diazole (IANBD). The protocol promotes the specificity of IANBD by using the ability to protect sulfhydryl 1 (SH1) from modification by binding the cross-bridge to the actin filament and using cross-bridge-bound MgADP to promote the accessibility of SH2. We determined the specificity of the probe using fluorescence gel scanning of fiber-extracted proteins to isolate the probe on myosin subfragment 1 (S1), limited proteolysis of the purified SI to isolate the probe on the 20-kilodalton fragment of S1, and titration of the free SH1's on purified S1 using the radiolabeled SH1-specific reagent [14C]iodoacetamide or enzymatic activity measurements. We estimated the distribution of the IANBD on the fiber proteins to be ~77% on SH2, ~5% on SHI, and ~18% on troponin I. We characterized the angular distribution of the IANBD on cross-bridges in fibers when the fibers are in rigor, in relaxation, in the presence of MgADP, and in isometric contraction using wavelength-dependent fluorescence polarization [Ajtai, K., & Burghardt, T. P. (1987) Biochemistry 26, 4517–4523]. With wavelength-dependent fluorescence polarization we use the ability to rotate the transition dipole in the molecular frame using excitation wavelength variation to investigate the three angular degrees of freedom of the cross-bridge. We find that the SH2 probe distinguishes the different states of the fiber such that rigor and MgADP are ordered and maintain a similar orientation throughout the excitation wavelength domain. The relaxed cross-bridge is ordered and has an orientation that is distinct from the orientation of the cross-bridge in rigor and MgADP over the entire wavelength domain. The active isometric cross-bridge is also ordered and has a distinctive polarization spectrum that has a different shape from all of the other states measured. The active isometric cross-bridge is also oriented differently from the other states, suggesting the presence of a predominant actin-bound cross-bridge state that precedes the power stroke during muscle contraction.
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