Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Almers, Wolfhard
Location Oregon Health & Science University
Primary Field Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
Secondary Field Physiology and Pharmacology
 Election Citation
Almers is a world leader in the biophysical study of endo-exocytosis. He discovered the fusion pore, a semistable transition state preceding full fusion of secretory vesicles. He has combined techniques from a broad spectrum of experimental science to analyze membrane trafficking events and exocytosis of individual vesicles.
 Research Interests
As a physiologist, I have studied exocytosis and endocytosis, two processes fundamental to every cell. During exocytosis, vesicles fuse with the plasma membrane and secrete their contents into the extracellular space. During endocytosis, the membrane thus added to the cell surface is taken back into the cell. In high-speed recordings, we observed the exocytosis of single vesicles, and discovered that membrane fusion starts with the opening of a pore no larger than that formed by some ion channels. Fusion often proceeds no further, and the vesicle simply re-seals. We wonder how such re-sealing is molecularly related to endocytosis. Now we image single vesicles by evanescent field fluorescence microscopy, and track their membranes through exo- and endocytosis. By labeling individual proteins in different colors, we observe their recruitment and release by single organelles, and also record the minute movements executed by the organelles as they fuse with, or separate from, the plasma membrane. Such observations will detect the mechanical forces accompanying membrane fusion and fission, and their relationship to the proteins that may cause them.

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