Mechanisms of membrane fusion: disparate players and common principles

Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2008 Jul;9(7):543-56. doi: 10.1038/nrm2417. Epub 2008 May 21.


Membrane fusion can occur between cells, between different intracellular compartments, between intracellular compartments and the plasma membrane and between lipid-bound structures such as viral particles and cellular membranes. In order for membranes to fuse they must first be brought together. The more highly curved a membrane is, the more fusogenic it becomes. We discuss how proteins, including SNAREs, synaptotagmins and viral fusion proteins, might mediate close membrane apposition and induction of membrane curvature to drive diverse fusion processes. We also highlight common principles that can be derived from the analysis of the role of these proteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Cell Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Lipid Bilayers / chemistry
  • Lipid Bilayers / metabolism
  • Membrane Fusion / physiology*
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • SNARE Proteins / chemistry
  • SNARE Proteins / metabolism
  • Synaptic Vesicles / metabolism
  • Synaptic Vesicles / ultrastructure
  • Synaptotagmins / chemistry
  • Synaptotagmins / metabolism
  • Viral Fusion Proteins / chemistry
  • Viral Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Virus Internalization


  • Lipid Bilayers
  • Membrane Proteins
  • SNARE Proteins
  • Viral Fusion Proteins
  • Synaptotagmins
  • Calcium