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SNARE Proteins: One to Fuse and Three to Keep the Nascent Fusion Pore Open

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Science  16 Mar 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6074, pp. 1355-1359
DOI: 10.1126/science.1214984

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Facilitating Fusion and Release

For neurotransmitters to be released from a neuron, a synaptic vesicle must fuse with the plasma membrane and form a fusion pore. Soluble N-ethylmaleimide–sensitive factor attachment protein receptor (SNARE) complexes are the core protein machinery involved in fusion; however, there has been debate regarding the mechanism. While in vitro studies have found that a single SNARE can cause fusion of two bilayers, in vivo studies have shown that a minimum of three SNAREs are required for neurotransmitter release. The apparently contradictory results are explained by Shi et al. (p. 1355), who monitored fusion of vesicles to membrane nanodiscs. While a single SNARE complex was sufficient to fuse bilayers, a minimum of three SNARE complexes were required to open a pore large enough for neurotransmitter release.

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