Congratulations Volker Kiessling, Alex Kreutzberger and Lukas Tamm – Latest paper in July’s Biophysical Journal

High Cholesterol Obviates a Prolonged Hemifusion Intermediate in Fast SNARE-Mediated Membrane Fusion.

Kreutzberger AJ, Kiessling V, Tamm LK.

Biophys J. 2015 Jul 21;109(2):319-29. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2015.06.022.



Cholesterol is essential for exocytosis in secretory cells, but the exact molecular mechanism by which it facilitates exocytosis is largely unknown. Distinguishing contributions from the lateral organization and dynamics of membrane proteins to vesicle docking and fusion and the promotion of fusion pores by negative intrinsic spontaneous curvature and other mechanical effects of cholesterol have been elusive. To shed more light on this process, we examined the effect of cholesterol on SNARE-mediated membrane fusion in a single-vesicle assay that is capable of resolving docking and elementary steps of fusion with millisecond time resolution. The effect of cholesterol on fusion pore formation between synaptobrevin-2 (VAMP-2)-containing proteoliposomes and acceptor t-SNARE complex-containing planar supported bilayers was examined using both membrane and content fluorescent markers. This approach revealed that increasing cholesterol in either the t-SNARE or the v-SNARE membrane favors a mechanism of direct fusion pore opening, whereas low cholesterol favors a mechanism leading to a long-lived (>5 s) hemifusion state. The amount of cholesterol in the target membrane had no significant effect on docking of synaptobrevin vesicles. Comparative studies with α-tocopherol (vitamin E) show that the negative intrinsic spontaneous curvature of cholesterol and its presumed promotion of a very short-lived (<50 ms) lipid stalk intermediate is the main factor that favors rapid fusion pore opening at high cholesterol. This study also shows that this single-vesicle fusion assay can distinguish between hemifusion and full fusion with only a single lipid dye, thereby freeing up a fluorescence channel for the simultaneous measurement of another parameter in fast time-resolved fusion assays.

Copyright © 2015 Biophysical Society. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.