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Xue Han and Meyer B. Jackson. “Structural Transitions in the Synaptic SNARE Complex during Calcium triggered exocytosis.” J Cell Biol. 172(2): 281-93 (2006)



Structural transitions in the synaptic SNARE complex during Ca2+-triggered exocytosis

The synaptic SNARE complex is a highly stable four-helix bundle that links the vesicle and plasma membranes and plays an essential role in the Ca(2+)-triggered release of neurotransmitters and hormones. An understanding has yet to be achieved of how this complex assembles and undergoes structural transitions during exocytosis. To investigate this question, we have mutated residues within the hydrophobic core of the SNARE complex along the entire length of all four chains and examined the consequences using amperometry to measure fusion pore opening and dilation. Mutations throughout the SNARE complex reduced two distinct rate processes before fusion pore opening to different degrees. These results suggest that two distinct, fully assembled conformations of the SNARE complex drive transitions leading to open fusion pores. In contrast, a smaller number of mutations that were scattered through the SNARE complex but were somewhat concentrated in the membrane-distal half stabilized open fusion pores. These results suggest that a structural transition within a partially disassembled complex drives the dilation of open fusion pores. The dependence of these three rate processes on position within the SNARE complex does not support vectorial SNARE complex zipping during exocytosis.