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Myosin IIs, actin-based motors that utilize the chemical energy of ATP to generate force, have potential as therapeutic targets. Their heavy chains differentiate the family into muscle (skeletal [SkMII], cardiac, smooth) and nonmuscle myosin IIs. Despite therapeutic potential for muscle disorders, no SkMII-specific inhibitor has been reported and characterized. Here we present the discovery, synthesis and characterization of 'skeletostatins', novel derivatives of the pan-myosin II inhibitor blebbistatin, with selectivity within the myosin IIs for SkMII. In addition, the skeletostatins bear improved potency, solubility and photostability, without cytotoxicity. Based on its optimal in vitro profile, Skeletostatin 1's in vivo tolerability, efficacy and pharmacokinetics were determined. Skeletostatin 1 was well-tolerated in mice, impaired motor performance, and had an excellent muscle to plasma ratio. Skeletostatins are useful probes for basic research and a strong starting point for drug development. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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