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Cell Mol Neurobiol. 2010 Nov;30(8):1321-6. doi: 10.1007/s10571-010-9599-4. Epub 2010 Nov 3.

The t-SNARE complex: a close up.

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Centre for Integrative Physiology, University of Edinburgh Medical School, Hugh Robson Building, George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9XD, UK.


The SNARE proteins, syntaxin, SNAP-25, and synaptobrevin have long been known to provide the driving force for vesicle fusion in the process of regulated exocytosis. Of particular interest is the initial interaction between SNAP-25 and syntaxin to form the t-SNARE heterodimer, an acceptor for subsequent synaptobrevin engagement. In vitro studies have revealed at least two different dynamic conformations of t-SNARE heterodimer defined by the degree of association of the C-terminal SNARE motif of SNAP-25 with syntaxin. At the plasma membrane, these proteins are organized into dense clusters of 50-60 nm in diameter. More recently, the t-SNARE interaction within these clusters was investigated in live cells at the molecular level, estimating each cluster to contain 35-70 t-SNARE molecules. This work reported the presence of both partially and fully zippered t-SNARE complex at the plasma membrane in agreement with the earlier in vitro findings. It also revealed a spatial segregation into distinct clusters containing predominantly one conformation apparently patterned by the surrounding lipid environment. The reason for this dynamic t-SNARE complex in exocytosis is uncertain; however, it does take us one step closer to understand the complex sequence of events leading to vesicle fusion, emphasizing the role of both membrane proteins and lipids.

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