Marco Grison, Ulrich Merkel, Julius Kostan, Kristina Djinović-Carugo, and Matthias Rief
Stable anchoring of titin within the muscle Z-disk is essential for preserving muscle integrity during passive stretching. One of the main candidates for anchoring titin in the Z-disk is the actin cross-linker α-actinin. The calmodulin-like domain of α-actinin binds to the Z-repeats of titin. However, the mechanical and kinetic properties of this important interaction are still unknown. Here, we use a dual-beam optical tweezers assay to study the mechanics of this interaction at the single-molecule level. A single interaction of α-actinin and titin turns out to be surprisingly weak if force is applied. Depending on the direction of force application, the unbinding forces can more than triple. Our results suggest a model where multiple α-actinin/Z-repeat interactions cooperate to ensure long-term stable titin anchoring while allowing the individual components to exchange dynamically.