Membrane fusion at each organelle requires conserved proteins: Rab-GTPases, effector tethering complexes, Sec1/Munc18 (SM)-family SNARE chaperones, SNAREs of the R, Qa, Qb, and Qc families, and the Sec17/α-SNAP and ATP-dependent Sec18/NSF SNARE chaperone system. The basis of organelle-specific fusion, which is essential for accurate protein compartmentation, has been elusive. Rab family GTPases, SM proteins, and R- and Q-SNAREs may contribute to this specificity. We now report that the fusion supported by SNAREs alone is both inefficient and promiscuous with respect to organelle identity and to stimulation by SM family proteins or complexes. SNARE-only fusion is abolished by the disassembly chaperones Sec17 and Sec18. Efficient fusion in the presence of Sec17 and Sec18 requires a tripartite match between the organellar identities of the R-SNARE, the Q-SNAREs, and the SM protein or complex. The functions of Sec17 and Sec18 are not simply negative regulation; they stimulate fusion with either vacuolar SNAREs and their SM protein complex HOPS or endoplasmic reticulum/cis-Golgi SNAREs and their SM protein Sly1. The fusion complex of each organelle is assembled from its own functionally matching pieces to engage Sec17/Sec18 for fusion stimulation rather than inhibition.
membrane fusion, SNARE, SM protein, NSF, α-SNAP