Editors' ChoiceCell Biology

Grappling with Membrane Fusion

Science Signaling  27 Jan 2009:
Vol. 2, Issue 55, pp. ec33
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.255ec33

The process of membrane fusion is fundamental to cellular organization and has been the focus of a vast literature. Südhof and Rothman review the role of so-called SNARE and SM proteins in membrane fusion and present a hypothesis for how they are regulated by other proteins, termed grapples, exemplified by complexin. Two further papers also shed light on complexin’s role in regulating SNARE-mediated membrane fusion. Giraudo et al. show that a structural motif within complexin appears to act as a molecular switch directly interacting with SNAREs during membrane fusion. Maximov et al. confirm that, in neuronal systems, complexin can play a negative or positive role in SNARE-mediated membrane fusion during neurotransmitter release, potentially either clamping SNARES to prevent spontaneous fusion or promoting fusion when appropriate.

C. G. Giraudo, A. Garcia-Diaz, W. S. Eng, Y. Chen, W. A. Hendrickson, T. J. Melia, J. E. Rothman, Alternative zippering as an on-off switch for SNARE-mediated fusion. Science 323, 512–516 (2009). [Abstract] [Full Text]

A. Maximov, J. Tang, X. Yang, Z. P. Pang, T. C. Südhof, Complexin controls the force transfer from SNARE complexes to membranes in fusion. Science 323, 516–521 (2009). [Abstract] [Full Text]

T. C. Südhof, J. E. Rothman, Membrane fusion: Grappling with SNARE and SM proteins. Science 323, 474–477 (2009). [Abstract] [Full Text]