Membrane fusion underlies multiple processes including exocytosis of hormones and neurotransmitters. Membrane fusion starts with the formation of a narrow fusion pore. Radial expansion of this pore completes the process and allows fast release of secretory compounds, but this step remains poorly understood. Here, we show that inhibiting the expression of the small GTPase Cdc42 or preventing its activation with a dominant negative Cdc42 construct in human neuroendocrine cells impaired the release process by compromising fusion pore enlargement. Consequently, the mode of vesicle exocytosis was shifted from full-collapse fusion to kiss-and-run. Remarkably, Cdc42-knockdown cells showed reduced membrane tension and the artificial increase of membrane tension restored fusion pore enlargement. Moreover, inhibiting the motor protein myosin II by blebbistatin decreased membrane tension as well as fusion pore dilation. We conclude that membrane tension is the driving force for fusion pore dilation and that Cdc42 is a key regulator of this force.
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