Isometric force developed by skinned gizzard muscle fiber bundles and levels of phosphorylation and thiophosphorylation of the 20,000-dalton myosin light chain were determined. These data showed a highly non-linear relationship between isometric force and myosin light-chain phosphorylation. Maximum force was developed at approximately 0.2 mol of phosphate/mol of light chain as reported previously (Hoar, P. E., Kerrick, W. G. L., and Cassidy, P. S. (1979) Science 204, 503-506). In contrast, the relationship between isometric force and myosin light-chain thiophosphorylation was linear, with maximum force occurring at 1.0 mol of thiophosphate/mol of myosin light chain. These observations are consistent with the latch-bridge hypothesis for conditions of varying myosin light-chain phosphatase/myosin light-chain kinase activity ratios as discussed by Hai and Murphy [1988) Am. J. Physiol. 254, C99-C106). To further test the latch-bridge hypothesis, ATPase activity was also measured during isometric force development in these fiber bundles. The relationship between isometric force and ATPase activity was linear whether the myosin light chains were phosphorylated or thiophosphorylated. Thus the number of cycling myosin cross-bridges, as measured by ATPase activity, was directly proportional to the force the muscle developed, not to the level of myosin light-chain phosphorylation. This finding that high levels of tension generated at low levels of light-chain phosphorylation are associated with high levels of ATPase activity is inconsistent with the latch-bridge model (Hai and Murphy, 1988).