Syntaxin Clustering and Optogenetic Control for Synaptic Membrane Fusion

Miaoling Li, Teak Jung Oh, Huaxun Fan, Jiajie Diao, Kai Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Membrane fusion during synaptic transmission mediates the trafficking of chemical signals and neuronal communication. The fast kinetics of membrane fusion on the order of millisecond is precisely regulated by the assembly of SNAREs and accessory proteins. It is believed that the formation of the SNARE complex is a key step during membrane fusion. Little is known, however, about the molecular machinery that mediates the formation of a large pre-fusion complex, including multiple SNAREs and accessory proteins. Syntaxin, a transmembrane protein on the plasma membrane, has been observed to undergo oligomerization to form clusters. Whether this clustering plays a critical role in membrane fusion is poorly understood in live cells. Optogenetics is an emerging biotechnology armed with the capacity to precisely modulate protein–protein interaction in time and space. Here, we propose an experimental scheme that combines optogenetics with single-vesicle membrane fusion, aiming to gain a better understanding of the molecular mechanism by which the syntaxin cluster regulates membrane fusion. We envision that newly developed optogenetic tools could facilitate the mechanistic understanding of synaptic transmission in live cells and animals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4773-4782
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number17
StatePublished - Aug 7 2020


  • SNAREs
  • cluster
  • optogenetics
  • synaptic transmission
  • syntaxin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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