The full-length cell-cell fusogen EFF-1 is monomeric and upright on the membrane.
Zeev-Ben-Mordehai T., Vasishtan D., Siebert CA., Grünewald K.
Fusogens are membrane proteins that remodel lipid bilayers to facilitate membrane merging. Although several fusogen ectodomain structures have been solved, structural information on full-length, natively membrane-anchored fusogens is scarce. Here we present the electron cryo microscopy three-dimensional reconstruction of the Caenorhabditis elegans epithelial fusion failure 1 (EFF-1) protein natively anchored in cell-derived membrane vesicles. This reveals a membrane protruding, asymmetric, elongated monomer. Flexible fitting of a protomer of the EFF-1 crystal structure, which is homologous to viral class-II fusion proteins, shows that EFF-1 has a hairpin monomeric conformation before fusion. These structural insights, when combined with our observations of membrane-merging intermediates between vesicles, enable us to propose a model for EFF-1 mediated fusion. This process, involving identical proteins on both membranes to be fused, follows a mechanism that shares features of SNARE-mediated fusion while using the structural building blocks of the unilaterally acting class-II viral fusion proteins.