Previous studies on exocytosis in Paramecium using mutants affecting trichocyst extrusion permitted us to analyze the assembly and function of three intramembrane particle arrays ("ring" and "rosette" in the plasma membrane, "annulus" in the trichocyst membrane) involved in the interaction between these two membranes. Using a conditional mutation, nd9, which blocks rosette assembly and prevents exocytosis at the nonpermissive temperature, we have analyzed the effect of temperature on the secretory capacity of nd9 cells. By combining several techniques (physiological studies, microinjections, inhibition of fatty acid synthesis, and freeze-fracture analysis) we demonstrate (a) that the product of the mutated allele nd9 is not thermolabile but that its activity is dependent upon temperature-induced changes in the membrane lipid composition and (b) that the product of the nd9 locus is a diffusible cytoplasmic component whose interaction with both plasma membrane and trichocyst membrane is required for rosette assembly and exocytosis. The data provide physiological evidence for the existence of a molecular complex(es) linking the two membranes and involved in the control of membrane fusion; we discuss the possible nature and function of these links.

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