Glycolipid-phospholipid vesicles containing phosphatidate and phosphatidylethanolamine were found to undergo proton-induced fusion upon acidification of the suspending medium from pH 7.4 to pH 6.5 or lower, as determined by an assay for lipid intermixing based on fluorescence resonance energy transfer. Lectinmediated contact between the vesicles was required for fusion. Incorporation of phosphatidylcholine in the vesicles inhibited proton-induced fusion. Vesicles in which phosphatidate was replaced by phosphatidylserine underwent fusion only when pH was reduced below 4.5, while no significant fusion occured (pH - 3.5) when the anionic phospholipid was phosphatidylinositol. It is suggested that partial protonation of the polar headgroup of phosphatidate and phosphatidylserine, respectively, causes a sufficient reduction in the polarity and hydration of the vesicle surface to trigger fusion at sites of intermembrane contact. © 1984.
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