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Biophys J. 2015 Jul 7;109(1):76-84. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2015.05.021.

Synaptobrevin transmembrane domain influences exocytosis by perturbing vesicle membrane curvature.

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Department of Neuroscience, Physiology Graduate Training Program, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin.
Department of Neuroscience, Physiology Graduate Training Program, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin. Electronic address:


Membrane fusion requires that nearly flat lipid bilayers deform into shapes with very high curvature. This makes membrane bending a critical force in determining fusion mechanisms. A lipid bilayer will bend spontaneously when material is distributed asymmetrically between its two monolayers, and its spontaneous curvature (C0) will influence the stability of curved fusion intermediates. Prior work on Ca(2+)-triggered exocytosis revealed that fusion pore lifetime (τ) varies with vesicle content (Q), and showed that this relation reflects membrane bending energetics. Lipids that alter C0 change the dependence of τ on Q. These results suggested that the greater stability of an initial exocytotic fusion pore associated with larger vesicles reflects the need to bend more membrane during fusion pore dilation. In this study, we explored the possibility of manipulating C0 by mutating the transmembrane domain (TMD) of the vesicle membrane protein synaptobrevin 2 (syb2). Amperometric measurements of exocytosis in mouse chromaffin cells revealed that syb2 TMD mutations altered the relation between τ and Q. The effects of these mutations showed a striking periodicity, changing sign as the structural perturbation moved through the inner and outer leaflets. Some glycine and charge mutations also influenced the dependence of τ on Q in a manner consistent with expected changes in C0. These results suggest that side chains in the syb2 TMD influence the kinetics of exocytosis by perturbing the packing of the surrounding lipids. The present results support the view that membrane bending occurs during fusion pore expansion rather than during fusion pore formation. This supports the view of an initial fusion pore through two relatively flat membranes formed by protein.

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