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Keywords:

  • cell fusion;
  • non-self fusion;
  • self-fusion;
  • auto-fusion;
  • sperm;
  • egg;
  • osteoclast;
  • macrophage;
  • placenta;
  • epithelia;
  • muscles;
  • vulva;
  • eye lens;
  • tumor;
  • stem cells;
  • enveloped viruses;
  • hybridoma;
  • hybrid;
  • syncytia;
  • hemifusion;
  • Caenorhabditis elegans;
  • Plasmodium;
  • Chlamydomonas;
  • Neurospora crassa;
  • Drosophila;
  • yeast;
  • sponges;
  • plants;
  • EFF-1;
  • AFF-1;
  • Syncytins;
  • Prm1;
  • CD9;
  • IgSF;
  • Izumo;
  • SPE-9;
  • SPE-38;
  • SPE-41;
  • SPE-42;
  • EGG-1;
  • EGG-2;
  • HAP2/GCS1;
  • FAST;
  • Hox;
  • FOS-1;
  • Notch;
  • Ras;
  • Wnt;
  • SCAR/WAVE;
  • WASp;
  • Actin;
  • LIM2;
  • MT1-MMP

Abstract

Eukaryotic cells have evolved diverged mechanisms to merge cells. Here, we discuss three types of cell fusion: (1) Non-self-fusion, cells with different genetic contents fuse to start a new organism and fusion between enveloped viruses and host cells; (2) Self-fusion, genetically identical cells fuse to form a multinucleated cell; and (3) Auto-fusion, a single cell fuses with itself by bringing specialized cell membrane domains into contact and transforming itself into a ring-shaped cell. This is a new type of selfish fusion discovered in C. elegans. We divide cell fusion into three stages: (1) Specification of the cell-fusion fate; (2) Cell attraction, attachment, and recognition; (3) Execution of plasma membrane fusion, cytoplasmic mixing and cytoskeletal rearrangements. We analyze cell fusion in diverse biological systems in development and disease emphasizing the mechanistic contributions of C. elegans to the understanding of programmed cell fusion, a genetically encoded pathway to merge specific cells. Developmental Dynamics 239:1515–1528, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.