Making waves: A proposed new role for myosin-binding protein C in regulating oscillatory contractions in vertebrate striated muscle

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Myosin-binding protein C (MyBP-C) is a critical regulator of muscle performance that was first identified through its strong binding interactions with myosin, the force-generating protein of muscle. Almost simultaneously with its discovery, MyBP-C was soon found to bind to actin, the physiological catalyst for myosin’s activity. However, the two observations posed an apparent paradox, in part because interactions of MyBP-C with myosin were on the thick filament, whereas MyBP-C interactions with actin were on the thin filament. Despite the intervening decades since these initial discoveries, it is only recently that the dual binding modes of MyBP-C are becoming reconciled in models that place MyBP-C at a central position between actin and myosin, where MyBP-C alternately stabilizes a newly discovered super-relaxed state (SRX) of myosin on thick filaments in resting muscle and then prolongs the “on” state of actin on thin filaments in active muscle. Recognition of these dual, alternating functions of MyBP-C reveals how it is central to the regulation of both muscle contraction and relaxation. The purpose of this Viewpoint is to briefly summarize the roles of MyBP-C in binding to myosin and actin and then to highlight a possible new role for MyBP-C in inducing and damping oscillatory waves of contraction and relaxation. Because the contractile waves bear similarity to cycles of contraction and relaxation in insect flight muscles, which evolved for fast, energetically efficient contraction, the ability of MyBP-C to damp so-called spontaneous oscillatory contractions (SPOCs) has broad implications for previously unrecognized regulatory mechanisms in vertebrate striated muscle. While the molecular mechanisms by which MyBP-C can function as a wave maker or a wave breaker are just beginning to be explored, it is likely that MyBP-C dual interactions with both myosin and actin will continue to be important for understanding the new functions of this enigmatic protein.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere202012729
JournalJournal of General Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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