The membrane of secretory granules is involved in the molecular events that cause exocytotic fusion. Several of the proteins that have been purified from the membrane of secretory granules form ion channels when they are reconstituted in lipid bilayers and, therefore, have been thought to form part of the molecular structure of the exocytotic fusion pore. We have used the patch clamp technique to study ion conductances in single isolated secretory granules from beige mouse mast cells. We found that the membrane of the intact granule had a conductance of < 50 pS. No abrupt changes in current corresponding to the opening and closing of ion channels were observed, even under conditions where exocytotic fusion occurred. However, mechanical tension or a large voltage pulse caused the breakdown of the granule membrane resulting in the abrupt opening of a pore with an ion conductance of about 1 nS that fluctuated rapidly and could expand to an immeasurably large conductance or close completely. Surprisingly, the behavior of these pores resembled the pattern of conductance changes of exocytotic fusion pores observed in degranulating beige mast cells. This similarity supports the view that the earliest fusion pore is formed upon the breakdown of a bilayer such as that formed during hemifusion.
ASJC Scopus subject areas