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Journal of Lipids
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 528784, 14 pages
Review Article

Membrane Fusion Induced by Small Molecules and Ions

Chemical Sciences Division, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Sector 1, Block AF, Bidhannagar, Kolkata 700064, India

Received 3 November 2010; Revised 28 January 2011; Accepted 25 February 2011

Academic Editor: Philip W. Wertz

Copyright © 2011 Sutapa Mondal Roy and Munna Sarkar. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Membrane fusion is a key event in many biological processes. These processes are controlled by various fusogenic agents of which proteins and peptides from the principal group. The fusion process is characterized by three major steps, namely, inter membrane contact, lipid mixing forming the intermediate step, pore opening and finally mixing of inner contents of the cells/vesicles. These steps are governed by energy barriers, which need to be overcome to complete fusion. Structural reorganization of big molecules like proteins/peptides, supplies the required driving force to overcome the energy barrier of the different intermediate steps. Small molecules/ions do not share this advantage. Hence fusion induced by small molecules/ions is expected to be different from that induced by proteins/peptides. Although several reviews exist on membrane fusion, no recent review is devoted solely to small moleculs/ions induced membrane fusion. Here we intend to present, how a variety of small molecules/ions act as independent fusogens. The detailed mechanism of some are well understood but for many it is still an unanswered question. Clearer understanding of how a particular small molecule can control fusion will open up a vista to use these moleucles instead of proteins/peptides to induce fusion both in vivo and in vitro fusion processes.