This review focuses on the so-called SNARE (soluble N-ethyl maleimide sensitive factor attachment protein receptor) proteins that are involved in exocytosis at the pre-synpatic plasma membrane. SNAREs play a role in docking and fusion of synaptic vesicles to the active zone, as well as in the Ca2+-triggering step itself, most likely in combination with the Ca2+ sensor synaptotagmin. Different SNARE domains are involved in different processes, such as regulation, docking, and fusion. SNAREs exhibit multiple configurational, conformational, and oliogomeric states. These different states allow SNAREs to interact with their matching SNARE partners, auxiliary proteins, or with other SNARE domains, often in a mutually exclusive fashion. SNARE core domains undergo progressive disorder to order transitions upon interactions with other proteins, culminating with the fully folded post-fusion (cis) SNARE complex. Physiological concentrations of neuronal SNAREs can juxtapose membranes, and promote fusion in vitro under certain conditions. However, significantly more work will be required to reconstitute an in vitro system that faithfully mimics the Ca2+-triggered fusion of a synaptic vesicle at the active zone.
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