Mechanical Tension Drives Cell Membrane Fusion

Ji Hoon Kim, Yixin Ren, Win Pin Ng, Shuo Li, Sungmin Son, Yee Seir Kee, Shiliang Zhang, Guofeng Zhang, Daniel A. Fletcher, Douglas N. Robinson, Elizabeth H. Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Membrane fusion is an energy-consuming process that requires tight juxtaposition of two lipid bilayers. Little is known about how cells overcome energy barriers to bring their membranes together for fusion. Previously, we have shown that cell-cell fusion is an asymmetric process in which an "attacking" cell drills finger-like protrusions into the "receiving" cell to promote cell fusion. Here, we show that the receiving cell mounts a Myosin II (MyoII)-mediated mechanosensory response to its invasive fusion partner. MyoII acts as a mechanosensor, which directs its force-induced recruitment to the fusion site, and the mechanosensory response of MyoII is amplified by chemical signaling initiated by cell adhesion molecules. The accumulated MyoII, in turn, increases cortical tension and promotes fusion pore formation. We propose that the protrusive and resisting forces from fusion partners put the fusogenic synapse under high mechanical tension, which helps to overcome energy barriers for membrane apposition and drives cell membrane fusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)561-573
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental Cell
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 9 2015


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology

Cite this

Kim, J. H., Ren, Y., Ng, W. P., Li, S., Son, S., Kee, Y. S., Zhang, S., Zhang, G., Fletcher, D. A., Robinson, D. N., & Chen, E. H. (2015). Mechanical Tension Drives Cell Membrane Fusion. Developmental Cell, 32(5), 561-573.