Modulation of membrane curvature by peptides
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The fusion of two stable bilayers likely proceeds through intermediates in which the membrane acquires curvature. The insertion of peptides into the membrane will affect its curvature tendency. Studies with a number of small viral fusion peptides indicate that these peptides promote negative curvature at low concentration. This is in accord with the curvature requirements to initiate membrane fusion according to the stalk-pore model. Although a characteristic of fusion peptides, the promotion of negative curvature is only one of several mechanisms by which fusion proteins accelerate the rate of fusion. In addition, the fusion peptide itself, as well as other regions in the viral fusion protein, facilitates membrane fusion by mechanisms that are largely independent of curvature. Leakage of the internal aqueous contents of liposomes is another manifestation of the alteration of membrane properties. Peptides exhibit quite different relative potencies between fusion and leakage that is determined by the structure and mode of insertion of the peptide into the membrane.
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