We have used an indane-dione spin label (2-[-oxyl-2,2,5,5-tetramethyl-3-pyrrolin-3-yl)methenyl]in dane-1,3-dione), designated InVSL, to study the orientation of myosin heads in bundles of chemically skinned rabbit psoas muscle fibers, with electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy. After reversible preblocking with 5,5'-dithiobis(2-nitro-benzoic acid) (DTNB), we were able to attach most of the spin label covalently and rigidly to either Cys 707 (SH1) or Cys 697 (SH2) on myosin heads. EPR spectra of labeled fibers contained substantial contributions from both oriented and disordered populations of spin labels. Similar spectra were obtained from fibers decorated with InVSL-labeled myosin heads (subfragment 1), indicating that virtually all the spin labels in labeled fibers are on the myosin head. We specifically labeled SH2 with InVSL after reversible preblocking of the SH1 sites with 1-fluoro-2,4-dinitrobenzene (FDNB), resulting in a spectrum that indicated only disordered spin labels. Therefore, the oriented and disordered populations correspond to labels on SH1 and SH2, respectively. The spectrum of SH2-bound labels was subtracted to produce a spectrum corresponding to SH1-bound labels, which was used for further analysis. For this corrected spectrum, the angle between the fiber axis and the principal axis of the spin label was fitted well by a Gaussian distribution centered at theta o = 11 +/- 1 degree, with a full width at half-maximum of delta theta = 15 +/- 2 degrees. The unique orientation of InVSL, with its principal axis almost parallel to the fiber axis, makes it complementary to spin labels previously studied in this system. This label can provide unambiguous information about axial rotations of myosin heads, since any axial rotation of the head must be reflected in the same axial rotation of the principal axis of the probe, thus changing the hyperfine splitting. Therefore, InVSL-labeled fibers have ideal properties needed for further exploration myosin head orientation and rotational motion in muscle.