The fusion pore and mechanisms of biological membrane fusion

Curr Opin Cell Biol. 1996 Aug;8(4):524-33. doi: 10.1016/s0955-0674(96)80031-7.


Membrane fusion occurs as part of processes as different as synaptic neurotransmitter transmission and infection with influenza virus. Recent evidence paints a picture in which the organization of proteins into a macromolecular scaffold brings the two fusing membranes together and induces hemifusion, that is, the fusion of the apposing leaflets of the two membranes to form a common bilayer. A small dynamic fusion pore forms in the common bilayer and usually expands to allow complete membrane merging. The mechanisms of fusion appear to be remarkably similar in exocytosis and virus-induced fusion. During exocytotic fusion, there is an additional twist to the mechanism, as sometimes the fusion pores close after release of small non-quantal amounts of secretory products.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Fusion / physiology
  • Exocytosis / physiology
  • Membrane Fusion / physiology*
  • Membranes / ultrastructure
  • Models, Biological
  • Serotonin / metabolism
  • Viral Fusion Proteins / metabolism


  • Viral Fusion Proteins
  • Serotonin