Myosins are molecular motors that generate force to power a wide array of motile cellular functions. Myosins have the inherent ability to change their ATPase kinetics and force-generating properties when they encounter mechanical loads; however, little is known about the structural elements in myosin responsible for force sensing. Recent structural and biophysical studies have shown that myosin-I isoforms, Myosin-Ib (Myo1b) and Myosin-Ic (Myo1c), have similar unloaded kinetics and sequences but substantially different responses to forces that resist their working strokes. Myo1b has the properties of a tension-sensing anchor, slowing its actin-detachment kinetics by two orders of magnitude with just 1 pN of resisting force, whereas Myo1c has the properties of a slow transporter, generating power without slowing under 1-pN loads that would stall Myo1b. To examine the structural elements that lead to differences in force sensing, we used single-molecule and ensemble kinetic techniques to show that the myosin-I N-terminal region (NTR) plays a critical role in tuning myosin-I mechanochemistry. We found that replacing the Myo1c NTR with the Myo1b NTR changes the identity of the primary force-sensitive transition of Myo1c, resulting in sensitivity to forces of <2 pN. Additionally, we found that the NTR plays an important role in stabilizing the post-power-stroke conformation. These results identify the NTR as an important structural element in myosin force sensing and suggest a mechanism for generating diversity of function among myosin isoforms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E3337-E3344
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number26
StatePublished - Jun 30 2015


  • Mechanochemistry
  • Mechanosensing
  • Optical tweezers
  • Single molecule
  • Transient kinetics


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