Regulation of Exocytotic Fusion by Cell Inflation
We have inflated patch-clamped mast cells by 3.8 6 1.6 times their volume by applying a hydrostatic pressure of 5–15 cm H2O to the interior of the patch pipette. Inflation did not cause changes in the cell membrane conductance and caused only a small reversible change in the cell membrane capacitance (36 6 5 fF/cm H2O). The specific cell membrane capacitance of inflated cells was found to be 0.5 mF/cm2. High-resolution capacitance recordings showed that inflation reduced the frequency of exocytotic fusion events by ;70-fold, with the remaining fusion events showing an unusual time course. Shortly after the pressure was returned to 0 cm H2O, mast cells regained their normal size and appearance and degranulated completely, even after remaining inflated for up to 60 min. We interpret these observations as an indication that inflated mast cells reversibly disassemble the structures that regulate exocytotic fusion. Upon returning to its normal size, the cell cytosol reassembles the fusion pore scaffolds and allows exocytosis to proceed, suggesting that exocytotic fusion does not require soluble proteins. Reassembly of the fusion pore can be prevented by inflating the cells with solutions containing the protease pronase, which completely blocked exocytosis. We also interpret these results as evidence that the activity of the fusion pore is sensitive to the tension of the plasma membrane.