Spatial and temporal control of regulated exocytosis by protein and lipid interactions
Cellular communication requires the transport of chemical messengers between intracellular compartments and from cell to cell. The regulated exocytosis of a secretory vesicle at the plasma membrane involves the merger of two bilayers, with markedly different lipid composition, within a millisecond time scale. The spatial and temporal control of the protein and lipid complement at these fusion sites is essential. A highly conserved family of proteins are known to drive this fusion event; SNAP-25 and syntaxin-1 (t-SNAREs) associate at the plasma membrane in a 1:1 stoichiometry to provide a binding site for the vesicle-membrane protein synaptobrevin (v-SNARE). The formation of this complex and subsequent fusion requires accessory proteins for efficient calcium-triggered exocytosis; which of these proteins facilitate the initial attachment of vesicle to the plasma membrane prior to fusion is still under debate. Specific sites for vesicle fusion have been proposed and the organisation of lipids and proteins at these fusion sites has been extensively investigated with limited spatial and temporal resolution; however the presence of raft-forming lipids at these sites as well as the arrangement of SNARE proteins at the molecular level is still under contention. The data presented within this thesis aims to elucidate the protein and lipid environment at the fusion site using super-resolution microscopy and advanced vesicle tracking. Under diffraction-limited microscopy the t-SNAREs are visualised as 200 nm homogenous clusters; however I have used single molecule localisation microscopy to reveal a more complex heterogeneous molecular arrangement. Quantification of lipid order exclusively at the plasma membrane provided insight into the influence of cholesterol-induced lipid arrangement on SNAP-25 localisation. In addition the t-SNARE interaction was investigated using TCSPC-FLIM identifying two lipid-order-dependent conformations in distinct clusters at the plasma membrane. Extensive vesicle tracking at optimum sampling rates demonstrated the ‘sampling’ behaviour of LDCVs and allowed characterisation of vesicle fusion sites. In summary I find that vesicles exhibit preference for residence and probably fusion at regions of plasma membrane with a low t-SNARE density; these proteins appear to exert control over exocytosis by adopting alternative conformations that are under cholesterol-induced regulation.