A transient N-terminal interaction of SNAP-25 and syntaxin nucleates SNARE assembly

J Biol Chem. 2004 Feb 27;279(9):7613-21. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M312064200. Epub 2003 Dec 9.


The SNARE proteins syntaxin, SNAP-25, and synaptobrevin play a central role during Ca(2+)-dependent exocytosis at the nerve terminal. Whereas syntaxin and SNAP-25 are located in the plasma membrane, synaptobrevin resides in the membrane of synaptic vesicles. It is thought that gradual assembly of these proteins into a membrane-bridging ternary SNARE complex ultimately leads to membrane fusion. According to this model, syntaxin and SNAP-25 constitute an acceptor complex for synaptobrevin. In vitro, however, syntaxin and SNAP-25 form a stable complex that contains two syntaxin molecules, one of which is occupying and possibly obstructing the binding site of synaptobrevin. To elucidate the assembly pathway of the synaptic SNAREs, we have now applied a combination of fluorescence and CD spectroscopy. We found that SNARE assembly begins with the slow and rate-limiting interaction of syntaxin and SNAP-25. Their interaction was prevented by N-terminal but not by C-terminal truncations, suggesting that for productive assembly all three participating helices must come together simultaneously. This suggests a complicated nucleation process that might be the reason for the observed slow assembly rate. N-terminal truncations of SNAP-25 and syntaxin also prevented the formation of the ternary complex, whereas neither N- nor C-terminal shortened synaptobrevin helices lost their ability to interact. This suggests that binding of synaptobrevin occurs after the establishment of the syntaxin-SNAP-25 interaction. Moreover, binding of synaptobrevin was inhibited by an excess of syntaxin, suggesting that a 1:1 interaction of syntaxin and SNAP-25 serves as the on-pathway SNARE assembly intermediate.

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • Circular Dichroism
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Cysteine / chemistry
  • Escherichia coli
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry*
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / chemistry*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Peptide Fragments / chemistry
  • Peptide Fragments / metabolism
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Qa-SNARE Proteins
  • R-SNARE Proteins
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • SNARE Proteins
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence
  • Synaptosomal-Associated Protein 25
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins*


  • Membrane Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Qa-SNARE Proteins
  • R-SNARE Proteins
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • SNARE Proteins
  • Synaptosomal-Associated Protein 25
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins
  • Cysteine