Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology


Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology

First Thesis Advisor

Mary Munson, PhD


Exocytosis, Extracellular Vesicles, Saccharomyces cerevisiae


Dissertations, UMMS; Exocytosis; Extracellular Vesicles; Saccharomyces cerevisiae


The exocyst is an evolutionarily conserved, hetero-octameric protein complex proposed to serve as a multi-subunit tethering complex for exocytosis, although it remains poorly understood at the molecular level. The classification of the exocyst as a multisubunit tethering complex (MTC) stems from its known interacting partners, polarized localization at the plasma membrane, and structural homology to other putative MTCs. The presence of 8 subunits begs the questions: why are so many subunits required for vesicle tethering and what are the contributions of each of these subunits to the overall structure of the complex? Additionally, are subunit or subcomplex dynamics a required feature of exocyst function? We purified endogenous exocyst complexes from Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and showed that the purified complexes are stable and consist of all eight subunits with equal stoichiometry. This conclusion contrasts starkly with current models suggesting that the yeast exocyst tethers vesicles by transient assembly of subcomplexes at sites of exocytosis. Using a combination of biochemical and auxininduced degradation experiments in yeast, we mapped the subunit connectivity, identified two stable four-subunit modules within the octamer, and demonstrated that several known exocyst binding partners are not necessary for exocyst assembly and stability. Furthermore, we visualized the structure of the yeast complex using negative stain electron microscopy; our results indicate that exocyst exists predominantly as an octameric complex in yeast with a stably assembled, elongated structure. This is the first complete structure of a CATCHR family MTC and it differs greatly from the EM structures available for the partial COG and Dsl1 complexes. Future work will be necessary to determine whether exocyst conformational changes are a required feature of vesicle tethering and how such changes are regulated.

These architectural insights are now informing the design of the first in vitro functional assay for the exocyst complex. We developed methodology for attaching fluorescently-labeled exocyst complexes to glass slides and monitoring the capture of purified, endogenous secretory vesicles by single molecule TIRF microscopy. By this approach, we can monitor tethering events in real time and determine the required factors and kinetics of exocytic vesicle tethering.



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