JOURNAL ARTICLE

Structures of the atlastin GTPase provide insight into homotypic fusion of endoplasmic reticulum membranes

Xin Bian, Robin W Klemm, Tina Y Liu, Miao Zhang, Sha Sun, Xuewu Sui, Xinqi Liu, Tom A Rapoport, Junjie Hu
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2011 March 8, 108 (10): 3976-81
21368113
The generation of the tubular network of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) requires homotypic membrane fusion that is mediated by the dynamin-like, membrane-bound GTPase atlastin (ATL). Here, we have determined crystal structures of the cytosolic segment of human ATL1, which give insight into the mechanism of membrane fusion. The structures reveal a GTPase domain and athree-helix bundle, connected by a linker region. One structure corresponds to a prefusion state, in which ATL molecules in apposing membranes interact through their GTPase domains to form a dimer with the nucleotides bound at the interface. The other structure corresponds to a postfusion state generated after GTP hydrolysis and phosphate release. Compared with the prefusion structure, the three-helix bundles of the two ATL molecules undergo a major conformational change relative to the GTPase domains, which could pull the membranes together. The proposed fusion mechanism is supported by biochemical experiments and fusion assays with wild-type and mutant full-length Drosophila ATL. These experiments also show that membrane fusion is facilitated by the C-terminal cytosolic tails following the two transmembrane segments. Finally, our results show that mutations in ATL1 causing hereditary spastic paraplegia compromise homotypic ER fusion.

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