Autophagy is a unique membrane trafficking pathway describing the formation and targeting of double membrane autophagosomes to the vacuole/lysosome. The biogenesis of autophagosomes and their delivery to the vacuole/lysosome depend on multiple membrane fusion events. Using a cell-free system, we have investigated the ability of LC3 and GATE-16, two mammalian Atg8 orthologs, to mediate membrane fusion. We found that both proteins promote tethering and membrane fusion, mediated by the proteins' N-terminal α helices. We further show that short, 10 amino acid long synthetic peptides derived from the N terminus of LC3 or GATE-16 are sufficient to promote membrane fusion. Our data indicate that the fusion activity of LC3 is mediated by positively charged amino acids, whereas the activity of GATE-16 is mediated by hydrophobic interactions. Finally, we demonstrate that LC3 and GATE-16 N termini in general and specific residues needed for the fusion activity are essential for the proteins role in autophagosome biogenesis.