Standard Article

Models of Membrane Fusion

  1. Sylvio May

Published Online: 15 AUG 2009

DOI: 10.1002/3527600434.eap669

Encyclopedia of Applied Physics

Encyclopedia of Applied Physics

How to Cite

May, S. 2009. Models of Membrane Fusion. Encyclopedia of Applied Physics. .

Author Information

  1. North Dakota State University, Department of Physics, Fargo, ND, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 AUG 2009


The fusion of biomembranes is an ubiquitous event in living organisms encountered in diverse situations, such as intracellular trafficking, recycling, fertilization, and infections by enveloped viruses. Even though each specific type of biological fusion is regulated by particular fusion proteins, it always involves the merger of two lipid bilayers. Even in the absence of proteins, bare lipid bilayers can be induced to undergo fusion. The question whether different types of fusion are variants of one or several universal fusion mechanisms has received much attention, but is not finally answered. At present, the most promising candidate is the stalk-pore fusion pathway, which involves several lipid-based fusion intermediates. We give an overview of common fusion types, current knowledge of corresponding fusion mechanisms, and efforts to model membrane fusion. The latter includes both phenomenological modeling and computer simulations.


  • DPD;
  • EFF-1;
  • HA;
  • SNARE complexes;
  • viral fusion