Reconstitution of Rab- and SNARE-dependent membrane fusion by synthetic endosomes

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Abstract

Rab GTPases and SNAREs (solubleN-ethylmaleimide-sensitive factor attachment protein receptors) are evolutionarily conserved essential components of the eukaryotic intracellular transport system. Although pairing of cognate SNAREs is sufficient to fuse membranesin vitro, a complete reconstitution of the Rab–SNARE machinery has never been achieved. Here we report the reconstitution of the early endosomal canine Rab5 GTPase, its key regulators and effectors together with SNAREs into proteoliposomes using a set of 17 recombinant human proteins. These vesicles behave like minimal ‘synthetic’ endosomes, fusing with purified early endosomes or with each otherin vitro. Membrane fusion measured by content-mixing and morphological assays requires the cooperativity between Rab5 effectors and cognate SNAREs which, together, form a more efficient ‘core machinery’ than SNAREs alone. In reconstituting a fusion mechanism dependent on both a Rab GTPase and SNAREs, our work shows that the two machineries act coordinately to increase the specificity and efficiency of the membrane tethering and fusion process.

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