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The tail domain of myosin Va modulates actin binding to one head.
Calcium activates full-length myosin Va steady-state enzymatic activity and favors the transition from a compact, folded "off" state to an extended "on" state. However, little is known of how a head-tail interaction alters the individual actin and nucleotide binding rate and equilibrium constants of the ATPase cycle. We measured the effect of calcium on nucleotide and actin filament binding to full-length myosin Va purified from chick brains. Both heads of nucleotide-free myosin Va bind actin strongly, independent of calcium. In the absence of calcium, bound ADP weakens the affinity of one head for actin filaments at equilibrium and upon initial encounter. The addition of calcium allows both heads of myosin Va.ADP to bind actin strongly. Calcium accelerates ADP binding to actomyosin independent of the tail but minimally affects ATP binding. Although 18O exchange and product release measurements favor a mechanism in which actin-activated Pi release from myosin Va is very rapid, independent of calcium and the tail domain, both heads do not bind actin strongly during steady-state cycling, as assayed by pyrene actin fluorescence. In the absence of calcium, inclusion of ADP favors formation of a long lived myosin Va.ADP state that releases ADP slowly, even after mixing with actin. Our results suggest that calcium activates myosin Va by allowing both heads to interact with actin and exchange bound nucleotide and indicate that regulation of actin binding by the tail is a nucleotide-dependent process favored by linked conformational changes of the motor domain.