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Letters to Nature
Nature 338, 167 - 170 (09 March 1989); doi:10.1038/338167a0

Three-dimensional architecture of the calcium channel/foot structure of sarcoplasmic reticulum

Terence Wagenknecht*, Robert Grassucci*, Joachim Frank*, Akitsugu Saito, Makoto Inui & Sidney Fleischer

*Wadsworth Center for Laboratories and Research, New York State Department of Health, Empire State Plaza, PO Box 509, Albany, New York 12201-0509, USA
Department of Molecular Biology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee 37235, USA

THE calcium channel responsible for the release of Ca2+ from the sarcoplasmic reticulum of skeletal muscle during excitation–contraction coupling has recently been identified and purified1–4,21. The isolated calcium channel has been identified morphologically with the 'foot' structures1,2 which are associated with the junctional face membrane of the terminal cisternae of sarcoplasmic reticulum. In situ, the foot structure extends across the gap of the triad junction from the terminal cisternae of the reticulum to the trans-verse tubule5. We describe here the three-dimensional architecture (3.7 nm resolution) of the calcium channel/foot structure from fast-twitch rabbit skeletal muscle, which we determined from electron micrographs of isolated, non-crystalline structures that had been tilted in the electron microscope. The reconstruction reveals two different faces and an internal structure in which stain accumulates at several interconnected locations, which could empty into the junctional gap of the triad junction. The detailed architecture of the channel complex is relevant to understanding both the physical path followed by calcium ions during excitation–contraction coupling and the association of the terminal cisternae and the transverse tubules in the triad junction.

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