, Volume 77, Issue 3, pp 265-275

Effects of divalent cations, temperature, osmotic pressure gradient, and vesicle curvature on phosphatidylserine vesicle fusion

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Fusion of phosphatidylserine vesicles induced by divalent cations, temperature and osmotic pressure gradients across the membrane was studied with respect to variations in vesicle size. Vesicle fusion was followed by two different methods: 1) the Tb/DPA fusion assay, whereby the fluorescent intensity upon mixing of the internal aqueous contents of fused lipid vesicles was monitored, and 2) measurement of the changes in turbidity of the vesicle suspension due to vesicle fusion. It was found that the threshold concentration of divalent cations necessary to induce vesicle fusion depended on the size of vesicles; as the diameter of the vesicle increased, the threshold value increased and the extent of fusion became less. For the osmotic pressure-induced vesicle fusion, the larger the diameter of vesicles, the smaller was the osmotic pressure gradient required to induce membrane fusion. Divalent cations, temperature increase and vesicle membrane expansion by osmotic pressure gradient all resulted in increase in surface energy (tension) of the membrane. The degree of membrane fusion correlated with the corresponding surface energy changes of vesicle membranes due to the above fusion-inducing agents. The increase in surface energy of 9.5 dyn/cm from the reference state corresponded to the threshold point of phosphatidylserine membrane fusion. An attempt was made to explain the factors influencing fusion phenomena on the basis of a single unifying theory.