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Scheidt, Holger A.; Kolocaj, Katja; Konrad, David B.; Frank, James A.; Trauner, Dirk; Langosch, Dieter and Huster, Daniel (2020): Light-induced lipid mixing implies a causal role of lipid splay in membrane fusion. In: Biochimica et Biophysica Acta-Biomembranes, Vol. 1862, No. 11, 183438

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The fusion of lipid membranes is central to many biological processes and requires substantial structural reorganization of lipids brought about by the action of fusogenic proteins. Previous molecular dynamics simulations have suggested that splayed lipids, whose tails transiently contact the headgroup region of the bilayer, initiate lipid mixing. Here, we explore the lipid splay hypothesis experimentally. We show that the light-induced trans/cis conversion of the azobenzene-based tail of a model lipid molecule enhances the probability by which its own acyl chains, or the acyl chains of the host lipid, transiently contact the lipid headgroup in a liposomal bilayer. At the same time, the trans/cis conversion triggers lipid mixing of sonicated or extruded liposomes, without requiring fusogenic proteins. This establishes a causal relationship between lipid splay and membrane fusion.

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