How cells fuse

The Journal of Cell Biology
Nicolas G BrukmanLeonid V Chernomordik

Abstract

Cell-cell fusion remains the least understood type of membrane fusion process. However, the last few years have brought about major advances in understanding fusion between gametes, myoblasts, macrophages, trophoblasts, epithelial, cancer, and other cells in normal development and in diseases. While different cell fusion processes appear to proceed via similar membrane rearrangements, proteins that have been identified as necessary and sufficient for cell fusion (fusogens) use diverse mechanisms. Some fusions are controlled by a single fusogen; other fusions depend on several proteins that either work together throughout the fusion pathway or drive distinct stages. Furthermore, some fusions require fusogens to be present on both fusing membranes, and in other fusions, fusogens have to be on only one of the membranes. Remarkably, some of the proteins that fuse cells also sculpt single cells, repair neurons, promote scission of endocytic vesicles, and seal phagosomes. In this review, we discuss the properties and diversity of the known proteins mediating cell-cell fusion and highlight their different working mechanisms in various contexts.

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