Revisiting the role of SNAREs in exocytosis and membrane fusion. Academic Article uri icon


  • For over a decade SNARE hypotheses have been proposed to explain the mechanism of membrane fusion, yet the field still lacks sufficient evidence to conclusively identify the minimal components of native fusion. Consequently, debate concerning the postulated role(s) of SNAREs in membrane fusion continues. The focus of this review is to revisit original literature with a current perspective. Our analysis begins with the earliest studies of clostridial toxins, leading to various cellular and molecular approaches that have been used to test for the roles of SNAREs in exocytosis. We place much emphasis on distinguishing between specific effects on membrane fusion and effects on other critical steps in exocytosis. Although many systems can be used to study exocytosis, few permit selective access to specific steps in the pathway, such as membrane fusion. Thus, while SNARE proteins are essential to the physiology of exocytosis, assay limitations often prevent definitive conclusions concerning the molecular mechanism of membrane fusion. In all, the SNAREs are more likely to function upstream as modulators or priming factors of fusion.

published proceedings

  • Biochim Biophys Acta

author list (cited authors)

  • Szule, J. A., & Coorssen, J. R.

citation count

  • 47

complete list of authors

  • Szule, Joseph A||Coorssen, Jens R

publication date

  • January 2003