Multiple stalk formation as a pathway of defect-induced membrane fusion
We propose that the first stage of membrane fusion need not be the formation of a single stalk. Instead, we consider a scenario for defect-induced membrane fusion that proceeds cooperatively via multiple stalk formation. The defects (stalks or pores) attract each other via membrane-mediated capillary interactions that result in a condensation transition of the defects. The resulting dense phase of stalks corresponds to the so-called fusion intermediate.