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Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2009;25:513-37. doi: 10.1146/annurev.cellbio.24.110707.175239.

Conflicting views on the membrane fusion machinery and the fusion pore.

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Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Copenhagen, 2200 Copenhagen N, Denmark.


Fast exocytosis of synaptic vesicles differs from other membrane fusion reactions by being under tight temporal control by the intracellular calcium concentration. This is achieved by subjecting the SNARE-dependent fusion pathway to additional layers of control, both upstream and downstream of the assembly of the fusogenic SNARE-complex. Here, I review conflicting views on the function of the core fusion machinery consisting of the SNAREs, Munc18, complexin, and synaptotagmin. Munc18 controls docking of vesicles to the plasma membrane and initial SNARE-complex assembly, whereas complexin and synaptotagmin cooperate in holding the SNARE complex in an intermediate release-ready or cocked state. Different effects of complexin and synaptotagmin shape the energy landscape for fusion and make final fusion calcium triggered. The final steps are fusion pore formation and expansion, which allow release of the water-soluble vesicle content. The fusion pore remains the most elusive part of the exocytosis pathway, owing to its short lifetime.

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