The swelling of the secretory granule matrix which follows fusion has been proposed as the driving force for the rapid expansion of the fusion pore necessary for exocytosis. To test this hypothesis, we have combined simultaneous measurements of secretory granule swelling using videomicroscopy with patch clamp measurements of the time course of the exocytotic fusion pore in mast cells from the beige mouse. We show that isotonic acidic histamine solutions are able to inhibit swelling of the secretory granule matrix both in purified secretory granules lysed by electroporation and in intact cells stimulated to exocytose by guanine nucleotides. In contrast to the inhibitory effects on granule swelling, the rate of expansion of the exocytotic fusion pore is unaffected. Therefore, as the rate of granule swelling was more than 20 times slower under these conditions, swelling of the secretory granule matrix due to water entry through the fusion pore cannot be the force responsible for the characteristic rapid expansion of the exocytotic fusion pore. We suggest that tension in the secretory granule membrane, which has recently been demonstrated in fused secretory granules, might be the force that drives the irreversible expansion of the fusion pore.
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