Neurotransmitter release is mediated by the fusion of synaptic vesicles with the presynaptic plasma membrane. Fusion is triggered by a rise in the intracellular calcium concentration and is dependent on the neuronal SNARE (soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive fusion protein-attachment protein receptor) complex. A plethora of molecules such as members of the MUNC13, MUNC18, complexin and synaptotagmin families act along with the SNARE complex to enable calcium-regulated synaptic vesicle exocytosis. The synaptotagmins are localized to synaptic vesicles by an N-terminal transmembrane domain and contain two cytoplasmic C2 domains. Members of the synaptotagmin family are thought to translate the rise in intracellular calcium concentration into synaptic vesicle fusion. The C2 domains of synaptotagmin-1 bind membranes in a calcium-dependent manner and in response induce a high degree of membrane curvature, which is required for its ability to trigger membrane fusion in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, members of the soluble DOC2 (double-C2 domain) protein family have similar properties. Taken together, these results suggest that C2 domain proteins such as the synaptotagmins and DOC2s promote membrane fusion by the induction of membrane curvature in the vicinity of the SNARE complex. Given the widespread expression of C2 domain proteins in secretory cells, it is proposed that promotion of SNARE-dependent membrane fusion by the induction of membrane curvature is a widespread phenomenon.

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