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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2003 Aug 18;1641(2-3):87-97.

Structural insights into the SNARE mechanism.

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Department of Neurobiology, Max-Planck-Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Am Fassberg 11, 37077, Göttingen, Germany.


Eukaryotic cells distribute materials among intracellular organelles and secrete into the extracellular space through cargo-loaded vesicles. A concluding step during vesicular transport is the fusion of a transport vesicle with a target membrane. SNARE proteins are essential for all vesicular fusion steps, thus they possibly comprise a conserved membrane fusion machinery. According to the "zipper" model, they assemble into stable membrane-bridging complexes that gradually bring membranes in juxtaposition. Hence, complex formation may provide the necessary energy for overcoming the repulsive forces between two membranes. During the last years, detailed structural and functional studies have extended the evidence that SNAREs are mostly in accord with the zipper model. Nevertheless, it remains unclear whether SNARE assembly between membranes directly leads to the merger of lipid bilayers.

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