The fusion of cells by influenza hemagglutinin (HA) is the best characterized example of protein-mediated membrane fusion. In simultaneous measurements of pairs of assays for fusion, we determined the order of detectable events during fusion. Fusion pore formation in HA-triggered cell-cell fusion was first detected by changes in cell membrane capacitance, next by a flux of fluorescent lipid, and finally by flux of aqueous fluorescent dye. Fusion pore conductance increased by small steps. A retardation of lipid and aqueous dyes occurred during fusion pore fluctuations. The flux of aqueous dye depended on the size of the molecule. The lack of movement of aqueous dyes while total fusion pore conductance increased suggests that initial HA-triggered fusion events are characterized by the opening of multiple small pores: the formation of a "sieve".

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