Microdomains of SNARE proteins in the plasma membrane

Curr Top Membr. 2013:72:193-230. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-417027-8.00006-4.


Exocytosis is catalyzed by the engagement of SNARE proteins embedded in the plasma membrane with complementary SNAREs in the membrane of trafficking vesicles undergoing exocytosis. In most cells studied so far, SNAREs are not randomly distributed across the plasma membrane but are clustered and segregated in discrete membrane domains of defined size, composition, and stability. SNARE clusters have been intensively studied for more than a decade. Different mechanisms have been proposed to be responsible for SNARE clustering such as partitioning into cholesterol-enriched lipid rafts, hydrophobic mismatch, posttranslational modifications of the SNAREs including phosphorylation and palmitoylation, electrostatic protein-protein and protein-lipid interactions, homotypic and heterotypic protein interactions, and anchoring to the cortical cytoskeleton. Although several of these proposed mechanisms are still controversially discussed, it is becoming apparent that independent physicochemical principles must cooperate in a synergistic manner to yield SNARE microdomains. Here, we discuss the architecture and function of SNARE domains. We also discuss the various factors influencing SNARE clustering, resulting in a model that we believe may be of general use to explain domain formation of proteins in the plasma membrane.

Keywords: Exocytosis; Membrane domain; Membrane organization; Plasma membrane; SNARE.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Cholesterol / chemistry
  • Cholesterol / metabolism
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Cytoskeleton / chemistry
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Exocytosis
  • Lipoylation
  • Membrane Microdomains / chemistry
  • Membrane Microdomains / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • PC12 Cells
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Interaction Maps
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Rats
  • SNARE Proteins / chemistry
  • SNARE Proteins / metabolism*


  • SNARE Proteins
  • Cholesterol
  • Calcium