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Concept: Secretory pathway


The Golgi apparatus has attracted intense attentions due to its fascinating morphology and vital role as the pivot of cellular secretory pathway since its discovery. However, its complex structure at the molecular level remains elusive due to limited approaches. In this study, the structure of Golgi apparatus, including the Golgi stack, cisternal structure, relevant tubules and vesicles, were directly visualized by high-resolution atomic force microscope. We imaged both sides of Golgi apparatus membranes and revealed that the outer leaflet of Golgi membranes is relatively smooth while the inner membrane leaflet is rough and covered by dense proteins. With the treatment of methyl-β-cyclodextrin and Triton X-100, we confirmed the existence of lipid rafts in Golgi apparatus membrane, which are mostly in the size of 20 nm -200 nm and appear irregular in shape. Our results may be of significance to reveal the structure-function relationship of the Golgi complex and pave the way for visualizing the endomembrane system in mammalian cells at the molecular level.

Concepts: Cell, Cell membrane, Golgi apparatus, Organelle, Endoplasmic reticulum, Protein targeting, Endomembrane system, Secretory pathway


As a major anabolic pathway, the secretory pathway needs to adapt to the demands of the surrounding environment and responds to different exogenous signals and stimuli. In this context, the transport in the early secretory pathway from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to the Golgi apparatus appears particularly regulated. For instance, protein export from the ER is critically stimulated by growth factors. Conversely, nutrient starvation also modulates functions of the early secretory pathway in multiple ways. In this review, we focus on amino-acid starvation and how the function of the early secretory pathway is redirected to fuel autophagy, how the ER exit sites are remodeled into novel cytoprotective stress assemblies, and how secretion is modulated in vivo in starving organisms. With the increasingly exciting knowledge on mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1), the major nutrient sensor, it is also a good moment to establish how the modulation of the secretory pathway by amino-acid restriction intersects with this major signaling hub.

Concepts: Cell, Golgi apparatus, Organelle, Secretion, Endoplasmic reticulum, Modulation, Protein targeting, Secretory pathway


The Golgi complex has a central role in the intracellular sorting of secretory proteins. Anterograde transport through the Golgi has been explained by the movement of Golgi cisternae, known as cisternal maturation. Because this explanation is now appreciated to be incomplete, interest has developed in understanding tubules that connect the Golgi cisternae. Here we show that the coat protein I (COPI) complex sorts anterograde cargoes into these tubules in human cells. Moreover, the small GTPase CDC42 regulates bidirectional Golgi transport by targeting the dual functions of COPI in cargo sorting and carrier formation. CDC42 also directly imparts membrane curvature to promote COPI tubule formation. Our findings further reveal that COPI tubular transport complements cisternal maturation in explaining how anterograde Golgi transport is achieved, and that bidirectional COPI transport is modulated by environmental cues through CDC42.

Concepts: Cell, Cell membrane, Golgi apparatus, Organelle, Secretion, Endoplasmic reticulum, Protein targeting, Secretory pathway


The signal recognition particle (SRP) is central to membrane protein targeting; SRP RNA is essential for SRP assembly, elongation arrest, and activation of SRP guanosine triphosphatases. In eukaryotes, SRP function relies on the SRP68-SRP72 heterodimer. We present the crystal structures of the RNA-binding domain of SRP68 (SRP68-RBD) alone and in complex with SRP RNA and SRP19. SRP68-RBD is a tetratricopeptide-like module that binds to a RNA three-way junction, bends the RNA, and inserts an α-helical arginine-rich motif (ARM) into the major groove. The ARM opens the conserved 5f RNA loop, which in ribosome-bound SRP establishes a contact to ribosomal RNA. Our data provide the structural basis for eukaryote-specific, SRP68-driven RNA remodeling required for protein translocation.

Concepts: Protein, Cell nucleus, RNA, Ribosome, Endoplasmic reticulum, Chaperone, Protein targeting, Secretory pathway


We have designed a membrane ‘staple’, which consists of membrane-anchored repeats of the trans-aggregating FM domain that face the lumen of the secretory pathway. In the presence of the disaggregating drug these proteins transit the secretory pathway. When the drug is removed these proteins form electron-dense plaques which we term staples. Unexpectedly, when initially positioned within the cis-Golgi, staples remained at the cis face of the Golgi even after many hours. By contrast, soluble FM-aggregates transited the Golgi. Staples and soluble aggregates placed in cis-Golgi cisternae therefore have different fates. Whereas the membrane staples are located in the flattened, stacked central regions of the cisternae, the soluble aggregates are in the dilated rims. This suggests that while the cisternae are static on the time scale of protein traffic, the dilated rims are mobile and progress in the cis → trans direction via a mechanism that we term ‘Rim Progression’. DOI:

Concepts: Cell, Cell membrane, Golgi apparatus, Organelle, Endoplasmic reticulum, Lumen, Protein targeting, Secretory pathway


Tapasin is an integral component of the peptide-loading complex (PLC) important for efficient peptide loading onto MHC class I molecules. We investigated the function of the tapasin-related protein, TAPBPR. Like tapasin, TAPBPR is widely expressed, IFN-γ-inducible, and binds to MHC class I coupled with β2-microglobulin in the endoplasmic reticulum. In contrast to tapasin, TAPBPR does not bind ERp57 or calreticulin and is not an integral component of the PLC. β2-microglobulin is essential for the association between TAPBPR and MHC class I. However, the association between TAPBPR and MHC class I occurs in the absence of a functional PLC, suggesting peptide is not required. Expression of TAPBPR decreases the rate of MHC class I maturation through the secretory pathway and prolongs the association of MHC class I on the PLC. The TAPBPR:MHC class I complex trafficks through the Golgi apparatus, demonstrating a function of TAPBPR beyond the endoplasmic reticulum/cis-Golgi. The identification of TAPBPR as an additional component of the MHC class I antigen-presentation pathway demonstrates that mechanisms controlling MHC class I expression remain incompletely understood.

Concepts: Cell, Golgi apparatus, Endoplasmic reticulum, Major histocompatibility complex, MHC class I, Lysosome, Protein targeting, Secretory pathway


The soluble form of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 1 (sVEGFR-1/sFlt1) is generated by alternative splicing of the FLT1 gene. Secretion of sFlt1 from endothelial cells plays an important role in blood vessel sprouting and morphogenesis. However, excess sFlt1 secretion is associated with diseases such as preeclampsia and chronic kidney disease. To date, the secretory transport process involved in the secretion of sFlt1 is poorly understood. In the present study, we investigated the itinerary of sFlt1 trafficking along the secretory pathway. To understand the timecourse of sFlt1 secretion, endothelial cells stably expressing sFlt1 were metabolically radiolabeled with [(35)S]-methionine and cysteine. Our results indicate that after initial synthesis the levels of secreted [(35)S]-sFlt1 in the extracellular medium peaks at 8 hours. Treatment with brefeldin A (BFA), a drug which blocks trafficking between the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and the Golgi complex, inhibited extracellular release of sFlt1 suggesting that ER to Golgi and intra-Golgi trafficking of sFlt1 are essential for its secretion. Furthermore, we show that ectopic expression of dominant-negative mutant forms of Arf1, Arf6, and Rab11 as well as siRNA-mediated knockdown of these GTPases block secretion of sFlt1 during normoxic and hypoxic conditions suggesting role for these small GTPases. This work is the first to report role of regulatory proteins involved in sFlt1 trafficking along the secretory pathway and may provide insights and new molecular targets for the modulation of sFlt-1 release during physiological and pathological conditions.

Concepts: Protein, Cell, Golgi apparatus, Secretion, Endoplasmic reticulum, Blood vessel, Protein targeting, Secretory pathway


The Golgi apparatus is the central hub for protein trafficking and glycosylation in the secretory pathway. However, how the Golgi responds to glucose deprivation is so far unknown. Here, we report that GRASP55, the Golgi stacking protein located in medial- and trans-Golgi cisternae, is O-GlcNAcylated by the O-GlcNAc transferase OGT under growth conditions. Glucose deprivation reduces GRASP55 O-GlcNAcylation. De-O-GlcNAcylated GRASP55 forms puncta outside of the Golgi area, which co-localize with autophagosomes and late endosomes/lysosomes. GRASP55 depletion reduces autophagic flux and results in autophagosome accumulation, while expression of an O-GlcNAcylation-deficient mutant of GRASP55 accelerates autophagic flux. Biochemically, GRASP55 interacts with LC3-II on the autophagosomes and LAMP2 on late endosomes/lysosomes and functions as a bridge between LC3-II and LAMP2 for autophagosome and lysosome fusion; this function is negatively regulated by GRASP55 O-GlcNAcylation. Therefore, GRASP55 senses glucose levels through O-GlcNAcylation and acts as a tether to facilitate autophagosome maturation.

Concepts: Cell, Enzyme, Golgi apparatus, Endoplasmic reticulum, Glycosylation, Lysosome, Protein targeting, Secretory pathway


The coat protein complex I (COPI) allows the precise sorting of lipids and proteins between Golgi cisternae and retrieval from the Golgi to the ER. This essential role maintains the identity of the early secretory pathway and impinges on key cellular processes, such as protein quality control. In this Cell Science at a Glance and accompanying poster, we illustrate the different stages of COPI-coated vesicle formation and revisit decades of research in the context of recent advances in the elucidation of COPI coat structure. By calling attention to an array of questions that have remained unresolved, this review attempts to refocus the perspectives of the field.

Concepts: Protein, Cell, Golgi apparatus, Organelle, Endoplasmic reticulum, Lysosome, Protein targeting, Secretory pathway


The nonstructural protein pc6 encoded by rice grassy stunt virus (RGSV) plays a significant role in viral cell-to-cell movement, presumably by transport through plasmodesmata (PD). We confirmed the association of pc6 with PD, and also elucidated the mechanisms of protein targeting to PD. Several inhibitor treatments showed conclusively that pc6 is targeted to PD via the ER-to-Golgi secretory system and actin filaments. In addition, VIII-1 myosin was also found to be involved in pc6 PD targeting. Deletion mutants demonstrated that C-terminal amino acid residues 209-229 (transmembrane domain 2; TM2) are essential for pc6 to move through PD.

Concepts: Protein, Amino acid, Acid, Ribosome, Endoplasmic reticulum, Protein targeting, Secretory pathway