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Volume 10, Pages 1258-1268
Mini-Review Article

SNAREs: Could They be the Answer to an Energy Landscape Riddle in Exocytosis?

Department of Neurobiology, Atomic Force Microscopy and Nanotechnology Laboratories, Center for Glial Biology in Medicine, Civitan International Research Center, and Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute, University of Alabama, Birmingham, AL, USA

Received 29 December 2009; Revised 14 May 2010; Accepted 11 June 2010

Academic Editor: Mary D. Barkley

Copyright © 2010 Wei Liu and Vladimir Parpura.


During exocytosis, chemical transmitters stored in secretory vesicles can be released upon fusion of these intracellular organelles to the plasma membrane. In this process, SNARE proteins that form a ternary core complex play a central role. This complex could provide the means for generation/storage of energy necessary for driving the fusion of vesicular and plasma membranes. Recently, the amount of energy for (dis)assembly of the ternary complex has been measured using various experimental approaches, including atomic force microscopy, the surface force apparatus, and isothermal titration calorimetry. The obtained measurements are in good agreement with the calculated energy required for membrane fusion achieved by theoretical modeling approaches. Whether the energy expenditure to form the ternary SNARE complex can be utilized towards membrane fusion and/or docking/tethering of vesicles to the plasma membrane still remains one of the key contemporary issues in biophysics and neuroscience.