The ability of lipid vesicles of simple composition (lecithin, lysolecithin, and stearylamine) to induce cells of various types to fuse has been investigated. One in every three or four cells in monolayer cultures can be induced to fuse with a vesicle dose of about 100 per cell. At such dosages and for exposures of 15 min to 1 h, vesicles have essentially no effect on cell viability. Under anaerobic conditions, these cells lyse rather than fuse. Avian erythrocytes are readily fused with lipid vesicles in the presence of dextran. Fusion indices increase linearly with the zeta potential of the vesicles (increasing stearylamine content), indicating that contact between vesicle and cell membrane is required. Fusion indices increase sublinearly with increasing lysolecithin content. Divalent cations increase fusion indices at high vesicle doses. The data presented are consistent with the hypothesis that cell fusion occurs via simultaneous fusion of a vesicle with two adhering cell membranes.

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