SNARE complexes mediate membrane fusion in the endomembrane system. They consist of coiled-coil bundles of four helices designated as Qa, Qb, Qc and R. A critical intermediate in the fusion pathway is the trans-SNARE complex generated by the assembly of SNAREs residing in opposing membranes. Mechanistic details of trans-SNARE complex formation and topology in a physiological system remain largely unresolved. Our studies on native yeast vacuoles revealed that SNAREs alone are insufficient to form trans-SNARE complexes and that additional factors, potentially tethering complexes and Rab GTPases, are required for the process. Here we report a novel finding that a HOPS tethering complex dimer catalyzes Rab GTPase-dependent formation of a topologically preferred QbQcR-Qa trans-SNARE complex.
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