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Biophys J. 1999 Dec;77(6):3144-51.

Hemifusion between cells expressing hemagglutinin of influenza virus and planar membranes can precede the formation of fusion pores that subsequently fully enlarge.

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Rush Medical College, Department of Molecular Biophysics and Physiology, 1653 W. Congress Parkway, Chicago, Illinois 60612, USA.


The chronological relation between the establishment of lipid continuity and fusion pore formation has been investigated for fusion of cells expressing hemagglutinin (HA) of influenza virus to planar bilayer membranes. Self-quenching concentrations of lipid dye were placed in the planar membrane to monitor lipid mixing, and time-resolved admittance measurements were used to measure fusion pores. For rhodamine-PE, fusion pores always occurred before a detectable amount of dye moved into an HA-expressing cell. However, with DiI in the planar membrane, the relationship was reversed: the spread of dye preceded formation of small pores. In other words, by using DiI as probe, hemifusion was clearly observed to occur before pore formation. For hemifused cells, a small pore could form and subsequently fully enlarge. In contrast, for cells that express a glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored ectodomain of HA, hemifusion occurred, but no fully enlarged pores were observed. Therefore, the transmembrane domain of HA is required for the formation of fully enlarging pores. Thus, with the planar bilayer membranes as target, hemifusion can precede pore formation, and the occurrence of lipid dye spread does not preclude formation of pores that can enlarge fully.

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