Research Describes Missing Step in How Cells Move Their Cargo

Every time a hormone is released from a cell, every time a neurotransmitter leaps across a synapse to relay a message from one neuron to another, the cell must undergo exocytosis. This is the process responsible for transporting cellular contents via lipid-encapsulated vesicles to the cell surface membrane and then incorporating or secreting them through membrane fusion. Insights into this cellular cargo transport system won three Americans the Nobel Prize in 2013.

​​​​​​​Now, a study led by Wei Guo, a professor of biology, has identified a key activation mechanism that leads to vesicle fusion to the membrane.

“Knowing the steps of this process is important for many physiological processes: endocrinology, neurotransmission, immune response,” Guo says. “This was a fundamental question in cell biology.”

The work appears in the journal Nature Communications. Peng Yue, a former graduate student at Penn, was the study’s lead author. Kunrong Mei, Shaoxiao Wang and Yueyao Zhu of Guo’s lab were coauthors, along with the Medical University of Vienna’s Yubo Zhang, Johannes Lesigang and Gang Dong.

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