Time-resolved admittance measurements were used to investigate the evolution of fusion pores formed between cells expressing influenza virus hemagglutinin (HA) and planar bilayer membranes. The majority of fusion pores opened in a stepwise fashion to semistable conductance levels of several nS. About 20% of the pores had measurable rise times to nS conductances; some of these opened to conductances of approximately 500 pS where they briefly lingered before opening further to semistable conductances. The fall times of closing were statistically similar to the rise times of opening. All fusion pores exhibited semistable values of conductance, varying from approximately 2-20 nS; they would then either close or fully open to conductances on the order of 1 microS. The majority of pores closed; approximately 10% fully opened. Once within the semistable stage, all fusion pores, even those that eventually closed, tended to grow. Statistically, however, before closing, transient fusion pores ceased to grow and reversed their conductance pattern: conductances decreased with a measurable time course until a final drop to closure. In contrast, pore enlargement to the fully open state tended to occur from the largest conductance values attained during a pore's semistable stage. This final enlargement was characterized by a stepwise increase in conductance. The density of HA on the cell surface did not strongly affect pore dynamics. But increased proteolytic treatment of cell surfaces did lead to faster growth within the semistable range. Transient pores and pores that fully opened had indistinguishable initial conductances and statistically identical time courses of early growth, suggesting they were the same upon formation. We suggest that transient and fully open pores evolved from common structures with stochastic factors determining their fate.

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