Contraction and myosin light-chain phosphorylation were measured in electrically stimulated tracheal smooth muscle. Latencies for the onset of force, stiffness, and light-chain phosphorylation were 500 milliseconds. Myosin light chain was phosphorylated from 0.04 to 0.80 mole of phosphate per mole of light chain with a pseudo-first-order rate of 1.1 per second with no evidence of an ordered or negatively cooperative process. Following the period of latency, stiffness increased with phosphorylation and both increased more rapidly than isometric force. The linear relation between stiffness and phosphorylation during activation suggests independent attachment of each myosin head upon phosphorylation.
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