SNARE proteins lie at the heart of the membrane fusion events in the secretory and endocytic pathways. Physical interactions between them are thought not only to provide the driving force for bringing membranes together, but also to contribute to the specificity of vesicle targeting. Completion of the yeast genome sequence has allowed the full set of SNAREs to be identified. Characterization of these helps to define the number of distinct compartments and the nature of the transport steps between them, but also shows that SNAREs are by no means the sole determinants of fusion specificity. Evolutionary conservation of SNAREs suggests that despite the differences in scale and morphology, many features of membrane organization are similar in yeast and animal cells. This review summarizes current knowledge of the yeast SNAREs and the picture of the secretory pathway that emerges from such studies.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.