All Publications

  • Inhibition of calcium-triggered secretion by hydrocarbon-stapled peptides. Nature Lai, Y., Fois, G., Flores, J. R., Tuvim, M. J., Zhou, Q., Yang, K., Leitz, J., Peters, J., Zhang, Y., Pfuetzner, R. A., Esquivies, L., Jones, P., Frick, M., Dickey, B. F., Brunger, A. T. 2022


    Membrane fusion triggered by Ca2+ is orchestrated by a conserved set of proteins to mediate synaptic neurotransmitter release, mucin secretion and other regulated exocytic processes1-4. For neurotransmitter release, the Ca2+ sensitivity is introduced by interactions between the Ca2+ sensor synaptotagmin and the SNARE complex5, and sequence conservation and functional studies suggest that this mechanism is also conserved for mucin secretion6. Disruption of Ca2+-triggered membrane fusion by a pharmacological agent would have therapeutic value for mucus hypersecretion as it is the major cause of airway obstruction in the pathophysiology of respiratory viral infection, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cystic fibrosis7-11. Here we designed a hydrocarbon-stapled peptide that specifically disrupts Ca2+-triggered membrane fusion by interfering with the so-called primary interface between the neuronal SNARE complex and the Ca2+-binding C2B domain of synaptotagmin-1. In reconstituted systems with these neuronal synaptic proteins or with their airway homologues syntaxin-3, SNAP-23, VAMP8, synaptotagmin-2, along with Munc13-2 and Munc18-2, the stapled peptide strongly suppressed Ca2+-triggered fusion at physiological Ca2+ concentrations. Conjugation of cell-penetrating peptides to the stapled peptide resulted in efficient delivery into cultured human airway epithelial cells and mouse airway epithelium, where it markedly and specifically reduced stimulated mucin secretion in both systems, and substantially attenuated mucus occlusion of mouse airways. Taken together, peptides that disrupt Ca2+-triggered membrane fusion may enable the therapeutic modulation of mucin secretory pathways.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41586-022-04543-1

    View details for PubMedID 35322233

  • Molecular Characterization of AMPA-Receptor-Containing Vesicles. Frontiers in molecular neuroscience Peters, J. J., Leitz, J., Oses-Prieto, J. A., Burlingame, A. L., Brunger, A. T. 2021; 14: 754631


    Regulated delivery of AMPA receptors (AMPARs) to the postsynaptic membrane is an essential step in synaptic strength modification, and in particular, long-term potentiation (LTP). While LTP has been extensively studied using electrophysiology and light microscopy, several questions regarding the molecular mechanisms of AMPAR delivery via trafficking vesicles remain outstanding, including the gross molecular make up of AMPAR trafficking organelles and identification and location of calcium sensors required for SNARE complex-dependent membrane fusion of such trafficking vesicles with the plasma membrane. Here, we isolated AMPA-containing vesicles (ACVs) from whole mouse brains via immunoisolation and characterized them using immunoelectron microscopy, immunoblotting, and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). We identified several proteins on ACVs that were previously found to play a role in AMPAR trafficking, including synaptobrevin-2, Rabs, the SM protein Munc18-1, the calcium-sensor synaptotagmin-1, as well as several new candidates, including synaptophysin and synaptogyrin on ACV membranes. Additionally, we identified two populations of ACVs based on size and molecular composition: small-diameter, synaptobrevin-2- and GluA1-containing ACVs, and larger transferrin- receptor-, GluA1-, GluA2-, and GluA3-containing ACVs. The small-diameter population of ACVs may represent a fusion-capable population of vesicles due to the presence of synaptobrevin-2. Because the fusion of ACVs may be a requisite of LTP, this population could represent trafficking vesicles related to LTP.

    View details for DOI 10.3389/fnmol.2021.754631

    View details for PubMedID 34720876

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC8554035

  • The pre-synaptic fusion machinery. Current opinion in structural biology Brunger, A. T., Choi, U. B., Lai, Y., Leitz, J., White, K. I., Zhou, Q. 2019; 54: 179–88


    Here, we review recent insights into the neuronal presynaptic fusion machinery that releases neurotransmitter molecules into the synaptic cleft upon stimulation. The structure of the pre-fusion state of the SNARE/complexin-1/synaptotagmin-1 synaptic protein complex suggests a new model for the initiation of fast Ca2+-triggered membrane fusion. Functional studies have revealed roles of the essential factors Munc18 and Munc13, demonstrating that a part of their function involves the proper assembly of synaptic protein complexes. Near-atomic resolution structures of the NSF/alphaSNAP/SNARE complex provide first glimpses of the molecular machinery that disassembles the SNARE complex during the synaptic vesicle cycle. These structures show how this machinery captures the SNARE substrate and provide clues as to a possible processing mechanism.

    View details for PubMedID 30986753

  • The pre-synaptic fusion machinery CURRENT OPINION IN STRUCTURAL BIOLOGY Brunger, A. T., Choi, U. B., Lai, Y., Leitz, J., White, K., Zhou, Q. 2019; 54: 179–88
  • Ca2+-Triggered Synaptic Vesicle Fusion Initiated by Release of Inhibition. Trends in cell biology Brunger, A. T., Leitz, J. n., Zhou, Q. n., Choi, U. B., Lai, Y. n. 2018


    Recent structural and functional studies of the synaptic vesicle fusion machinery suggest an inhibited tripartite complex consisting of neuronal soluble N-ethylmaleimide sensitive factor attachment protein receptors (SNAREs), synaptotagmin, and complexin prior to Ca2+-triggered synaptic vesicle fusion. We speculate that Ca2+-triggered fusion commences with the release of inhibition by Ca2+ binding to synaptotagmin C2 domains. Subsequently, fusion is assisted by SNARE complex zippering and by active membrane remodeling properties of synaptotagmin. This additional, inhibitory role of synaptotagmin may be a general principle since other recent studies suggest that Ca2+ binding to extended synaptotagmin C2 domains enables lipid transport by releasing an inhibited state of the system, and that Munc13 may nominally be in an inhibited state, which is released upon Ca2+ binding to one of its C2 domains.

    View details for PubMedID 29706534

  • Molecular Mechanisms of Fast Neurotransmitter Release ANNUAL REVIEW OF BIOPHYSICS, VOL 47 Brunger, A. T., Choi, U. B., Lai, Y., Leitz, J., Zhou, Q., Dill, K. A. 2018; 47: 469–97


    This review summarizes current knowledge of synaptic proteins that are central to synaptic vesicle fusion in presynaptic active zones, including SNAREs (soluble N-ethylmaleimide sensitive factor attachment protein receptors), synaptotagmin, complexin, Munc18 (mammalian uncoordinated-18), and Munc13 (mammalian uncoordinated-13), and highlights recent insights in the cooperation of these proteins for neurotransmitter release. Structural and functional studies of the synaptic fusion machinery suggest new molecular models of synaptic vesicle priming and Ca2+-triggered fusion. These studies will be a stepping-stone toward answering the question of how the synaptic vesicle fusion machinery achieves such high speed and sensitivity.

    View details for PubMedID 29792815

  • Molecular Mechanisms of Synaptic Vesicle Priming by Munc13 and Munc18 NEURON Lai, Y., Choi, U. B., Leitz, J., Rhee, H., Lee, C., Altas, B., Zhao, M., Pfuetzner, R. A., Wang, A. L., Brose, N., Rhee, J., Brunger, A. T. 2017; 95 (3): 591-+


    Munc13 catalyzes the transit of syntaxin from a closed complex with Munc18 into the ternary SNARE complex. Here we report a new function of Munc13, independent of Munc18: it promotes the proper syntaxin/synaptobrevin subconfiguration during assembly of the ternary SNARE complex. In cooperation with Munc18, Munc13 additionally ensures the proper syntaxin/SNAP-25 subconfiguration. In a reconstituted fusion assay with SNAREs, complexin, and synaptotagmin, inclusion of both Munc13 and Munc18 quadruples the Ca2+-triggered amplitude and achieves Ca2+ sensitivity at near-physiological concentrations. In Munc13-1/2 double-knockout neurons, expression of a constitutively open mutant of syntaxin could only minimally restore neurotransmitter release relative to Munc13-1 rescue. Together, the physiological functions of Munc13 may be related to regulation of proper SNARE complex assembly.

    View details for PubMedID 28772123

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5747255

  • C-terminal domain of mammalian complexin-1 localizes to highly curved membranes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Gong, J., Lai, Y., Li, X., Wang, M., Leitz, J., Hu, Y., Zhang, Y., Choi, U. B., Cipriano, D., Pfuetzner, R. A., Südhof, T. C., Yang, X., Brunger, A. T., Diao, J. 2016


    In presynaptic nerve terminals, complexin regulates spontaneous "mini" neurotransmitter release and activates Ca(2+)-triggered synchronized neurotransmitter release. We studied the role of the C-terminal domain of mammalian complexin in these processes using single-particle optical imaging and electrophysiology. The C-terminal domain is important for regulating spontaneous release in neuronal cultures and suppressing Ca(2+)-independent fusion in vitro, but it is not essential for evoked release in neuronal cultures and in vitro. This domain interacts with membranes in a curvature-dependent fashion similar to a previous study with worm complexin [Snead D, Wragg RT, Dittman JS, Eliezer D (2014) Membrane curvature sensing by the C-terminal domain of complexin. Nat Commun 5:4955]. The curvature-sensing value of the C-terminal domain is comparable to that of α-synuclein. Upon replacement of the C-terminal domain with membrane-localizing elements, preferential localization to the synaptic vesicle membrane, but not to the plasma membrane, results in suppression of spontaneous release in neurons. Membrane localization had no measurable effect on evoked postsynaptic currents of AMPA-type glutamate receptors, but mislocalization to the plasma membrane increases both the variability and the mean of the synchronous decay time constant of NMDA-type glutamate receptor evoked postsynaptic currents.

    View details for PubMedID 27821736

  • Intrinsic and membrane-facilitated alpha-synuclein oligomerization revealed by label-free detection through solid-state nanopores SCIENTIFIC REPORTS Hu, R., Diao, J., Li, J., Tang, Z., Li, X., Leitz, J., Long, J., Liu, J., Yu, D., Zhao, Q. 2016; 6


    α-Synuclein (α-Syn) is an abundant cytosolic protein involved in the release of neurotransmitters in presynaptic terminal and its aberrant aggregation is found to be associated with Parkinson's disease. Recent study suggests that the oligomers formed at the initial oligomerization stage may be the root cause of cytotoxicity. While characterizing this stage is challenging due to the inherent difficulties in studying heterogeneous and transient systems by conventional biochemical technology. Here we use solid-state nanopores to study the time-dependent kinetics of α-Syn oligomerization through a label-free and single molecule approach. A tween 20 coating method is developed to inhibit non-specific adsorption between α-Syn and nanopore surface to ensure successful and continuous detection of α-Syn translocation. We identify four types of oligomers formed in oligomerization stage and find an underlying consumption mechanism that the formation of large oligomers consumes small oligomers. Furthermore, the effect of lipid membrane on oligomerization of α-Syn is also investigated and the results show that 1,2-dioleoyl-sn-glycero-3-[phospho-L-serine] (DOPS) small unilamellar vesicles (SUVs) dramatically enhances the aggregation rate of α-Syn while do not alter the aggregation pathway.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/srep20776

    View details for Web of Science ID 000369898800002

    View details for PubMedID 26865505