Biophysical Reviews

, Volume 10, Issue 5, pp 1465–1477 | Cite as

Lessons from a tarantula: new insights into myosin interacting-heads motif evolution and its implications on disease

  • Lorenzo Alamo
  • Antonio Pinto
  • Guidenn Sulbarán
  • Jesús Mavárez
  • Raúl Padrón


Tarantula’s leg muscle thick filament is the ideal model for the study of the structure and function of skeletal muscle thick filaments. Its analysis has given rise to a series of structural and functional studies, leading, among other things, to the discovery of the myosin interacting-heads motif (IHM). Further electron microscopy (EM) studies have shown the presence of IHM in frozen-hydrated and negatively stained thick filaments of striated, cardiac, and smooth muscle of bilaterians, most showing the IHM parallel to the filament axis. EM studies on negatively stained heavy meromyosin of different species have shown the presence of IHM on sponges, animals that lack muscle, extending the presence of IHM to metazoans. The IHM evolved about 800 MY ago in the ancestor of Metazoa, and independently with functional differences in the lineage leading to the slime mold Dictyostelium discoideum (Mycetozoa). This motif conveys important functional advantages, such as Ca2+ regulation and ATP energy-saving mechanisms. Recent interest has focused on human IHM structure in order to understand the structural basis underlying various conditions and situations of scientific and medical interest: the hypertrophic and dilated cardiomyopathies, overfeeding control, aging and hormone deprival muscle weakness, drug design for schistosomiasis control, and conditioning exercise physiology for the training of power athletes.


Myosin interacting-heads motif Muscle disease Myosin filaments Muscle evolution Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy Tarantula 



We thank Dr. Gustavo Márquez for help with the manuscript. Molecular graphics images were produced using the UCSF Chimera package (Pettersen et al. 2004) from the Resource for Biocomputing, Visualization, and Informatics at the University of California, San Francisco (supported by the National Institutes of Health grant P41 RR-01081). This work was supported in part by Centro de Biología Estructural del Mercosur ( (to R.P.) and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (to R.P.).

We dedicate this review to the memory of Dr. Hugh E. Huxley.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Lorenzo Alamo declares that he has no conflicts of interest. Antonio Pinto declares that he has no conflicts of interest. Guidenn Sulbarán declares that he has no conflicts of interest. Jesús Mavárez declares that he has no conflicts of interest. Raúl Padrón declares that he has no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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© International Union for Pure and Applied Biophysics (IUPAB) and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centro de Biología Estructural “Humberto Fernández-Morán”Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas (IVIC)CaracasVenezuela
  2. 2.Institut de Biologie Structurale (IBS)CEA-CNRS Université Grenoble AlpesGrenobleFrance
  3. 3.Laboratoire d’Ecologie AlpineUMR 5553 CNRS-Université Grenoble AlpesGrenobleFrance

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