Cell-cell fusion is critical for the conception, development, and physiology of multicellular organisms. Although cellular fusogenic proteins and the actin cytoskeleton are implicated in cell-cell fusion, it remains unclear whether and how they coordinate to promote plasma membrane fusion. We reconstituted a high-efficiency, inducible cell fusion culture system in the normally nonfusing Drosophila S2R+ cells. Both fusogenic proteins and actin cytoskeletal rearrangements were necessary for cell fusion, and in combination they were sufficient to impart fusion competence. Localized actin polymerization triggered by specific cell-cell or cell-matrix adhesion molecules propelled invasive cell membrane protrusions, which in turn promoted fusogenic protein engagement and plasma membrane fusion. This de novo cell fusion culture system reveals a general role for actin-propelled invasive membrane protrusions in driving fusogenic protein engagement during cell-cell fusion.
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