Highly conserved soluble N-ethylmaleimide sensitive factor attachment protein receptor (SNARE) proteins control membrane fusion at synapses. The target plasma membrane-associated SNARE proteins and the vesicle-associated SNARE protein assemble into a parallel four-helix bundle. Using a novel EPR approach, it is found that the SNARE four-helix bundles are interconnected via domain swapping that is achieved by substituting one of the two SNAP-25 helices with the identical helix from the second four-helical bundle. Domain swapping is likely to play a role in the multimerization of the SNARE complex that is required for successful membrane fusion. The new EPR application employed here should be useful to study other polymerizing proteins.
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