The exocytotic fusion pore interface: A model of the site of neurotransmitter release

Jonathan R. Monck, Andres F. Oberhauser, Julio M. Fernandez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


infrastructurel techniques have shown that an early event in the exocytotic fusion of a secretory vesicle is the formation of a narrow, water-filled pore spanning both the vesicle and plasma membranes and connecting the lumen of the secretory vesicle to the extracellular environment. Smaller precursors of the exocytotic fusion pore have been detected using electrophysio-logical techniques, which reveal a dynamic fusion pore that quickly expands to the size of the pores seen with electron microscopy. While it is clear that in the latter stages of expansion, when the size of the fusion pore is several orders of magnitude bigger than any known macromolecule, the fusion pore must be mainly made of lipids, the structure of the smaller precursors is unknown. Patch-clamp measurements of the activity of individual fusion pores in mast cells have shown that the fusion pore has some unusual and unexpected properties, namely that there is a large flux of lipid through the pore and the rate of pore closure has a discontinuous temperature dependency, suggesting a purely lipidic fusion pore. Moreover, comparisons of experimental data with theoretical fusion pores and with breakdown pores support the view that the fusion pore is initially a pore through a single bilayer, as would be expected for membrane fusion proceeding through a hemifusion mechanism. Based on these observations we present a model where the fusion pore is initially a pore through a single bilayer. Fusion pore formation is regulated by a macromolecular scaffold of proteins that is responsible for bringing the plasma membrane into a highly curved dimple very close to a tense secretory granule membrane, creating the architecture where the strongly attractive hydrophobic force causes the membranes to form a 'hemifusion' intermediate. Membrane fusion is completed by the formation of an aqueous pore after rupture of the shared bilayer. We also propose that the microenvironment of the interface when the pore first opens, dominated by the charged groups on the secretory vesicle matrix and phospholipids, will greatly influence the release of secretory products.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-156
Number of pages6
JournalMolecular membrane biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Exocytosis
  • Fusion pore
  • Hemifusion
  • Protein scaffold

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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