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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Aug 20;110(34):E3243-52. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1310327110. Epub 2013 Aug 5.

Prevalent mechanism of membrane bridging by synaptotagmin-1.

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Department of Biophysics, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX 75390, USA.


Synaptotagmin-1 functions as a Ca(2+) sensor in neurotransmitter release through its two C2 domains (the C2A and C2B domain). The ability of synaptotagmin-1 to bridge two membranes is likely crucial for its function, enabling cooperation with the soluble N-ethylmaleimide sensitive factor adaptor protein receptors (SNAREs) in membrane fusion, but two bridging mechanisms have been proposed. A highly soluble synaptotagmin-1 fragment containing both domains (C2AB) was shown to bind simultaneously to two membranes via the Ca(2+)-binding loops at the top of both domains and basic residues at the bottom of the C2B domain (direct bridging mechanism). In contrast, a longer fragment including a linker sequence (lnC2AB) was found to aggregate in solution and was proposed to bridge membranes through trans interactions between lnC2AB oligomers bound to each membrane via the Ca(2+)-binding loops, with no contact of the bottom of the C2B domain with the membranes. We now show that lnC2AB containing impurities indeed aggregates in solution, but properly purified lnC2AB is highly soluble. Moreover, cryo-EM images reveal that a majority of lnC2AB molecules bridge membranes directly. Fluorescence spectroscopy indicates that the bottom of the C2B domain contacts the membrane in a sizeable population of molecules of both membrane-bound C2AB and membrane-bound lnC2AB. NMR data on nanodiscs show that a fraction of C2AB molecules bind to membranes with antiparallel orientations of the C2 domains. Together with previous studies, these results show that direct bridging constitutes the prevalent mechanism of membrane bridging by both C2AB and lnC2AB, suggesting that this mechanism underlies the function of synaptotagmin-1 in neurotransmitter release.


Ca2+ sensing; exocytosis; membrane bending; synaptic transmission

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