We have developed a surface plasmon resonance (SPR) system to monitor the cross-bridge attachment/detachment process within intact sarcomeres from mouse heart muscle. SPR occurs when laser light energy is transferred to surface plasmons that are resonantly excited in a metal (gold) film. This resonance manifests itself as a minimum in the reflection of the incident laser light and occurs at a characteristic angle. The angle of the SPR occurrence depends on the dielectric permittivity of the sample medium adjacent to the gold film. Purified sarcomeric preparations are immobilized onto the gold film in the presence of a relaxing solution. Replacement of the relaxing solution with increasing Ca(2+) concentration solution activates the cross-bridge interaction and produces an increase in the SPR angle. These results imply that the interaction of myosin heads with actin within an intact sarcomere changes the dielectric permittivity of the sarcomeric structure. In addition, we further verify that SPR measurements can detect the changes in the population of the attached cross-bridges with altered concentrations of phosphate, 2,3-butanedione monoxime, or adenosine triphosphate at a fixed calcium concentration, which have been shown to reduce the force and increase the cross-bridge population in attached state. Thus, our data provide the first evidence that the SPR technique allows the monitoring of the cross-bridge attachment/detachment process within intact sarcomeres.