Classic mechanisms for membrane fusion involve transmembrane proteins that assemble into complexes and dynamically alter their conformation to bend membranes, leading to mixing of membrane lipids (hemifusion) and fusion pore formation. Myomaker and Myomerger govern myoblast fusion and muscle formation but are structurally divergent from traditional fusogenic proteins. Here, we show that Myomaker and Myomerger independently mediate distinct steps in the fusion pathway, where Myomaker is involved in membrane hemifusion and Myomerger is necessary for fusion pore formation. Mechanistically, we demonstrate that Myomerger is required on the cell surface where its ectodomains stress membranes. Moreover, we show that Myomerger drives fusion completion in a heterologous system independent of Myomaker and that a Myomaker-Myomerger physical interaction is not required for function. Collectively, our data identify a stepwise cell fusion mechanism in myoblasts where different proteins are delegated to perform unique membrane functions essential for membrane coalescence.
Keywords: Myomaker; Myomerger/Minion/Myomixer; cell-cell fusion; membrane fusion; muscle development.
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