The goal of the current study was to generate recombinant cTnC proteins with single Cys residues as sites for attachment of fluorescent probes that can distinguish between the structural effects of myosin cross bridges and direct Ca2+ binding to cTnC (cardiac and slow skeletal troponin C) in skinned fibers. We anticipated that cTnC proteins which retain the endogenous Cys 35 (cTnC(C35)) or Cys 84 (cTnC(C84)) would provide fluorescent probes with distinct microenvironments, since these residues are on opposite sides of the globular regulatory domain. In vitro experiments that showed IAANS (2- (4'-(iodoacetamido)anilino)naphthalene-6-sulfonic acid) coupled to Cys 35 can induce unwanted structural perturbations as evidenced by a decreased affinity of site II for Ca2+ when IAANS-labeled cTnC(C35) is bound to cTnI. Important structural features involving Cys 35 in the inactive site I are suggested by a Ca2+-dependent increase in reactivity of Cys 35 with sulfhydryl specific reagents when cTnC(C35) is associated with cTnI. These characteristics are not seen for cTnC(C84). When incorporated in situ into skinned cardiac muscle fibers, native cTnC with IAANS bound to both Cys 35 and Cys 84 showed a pCa50 of fluorescence which preceded that of force, while the pCa50 values of both force and fluorescence were coincident for IAANS-labeled cTnC(C84). Disruption of force-producing myosin cross bridges had no effect on the pCa50 of fluorescence for IAANS-labeled cTnC(C84), but induced a rightward shift in the pCa50 of fluorescence for IAANS-labeled native cTnC. These data can be interpreted to indicate that cTnC with IAANS bound to both Cys 35 and C84 senses either myosin cross bridges or direct Ca2+ binding and myosin-induced cooperativity, while IAANS bound to Cys 84 alone senses conformations that are tightly coupled with force generation.
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