Sar1 is an essential component of COPII vesicle coats
Sar1 is an essential component of COPII vesicle coats involved in export of cargo from the ER. The GTPase activity of Sar1 functions as a molecular switch to control protein-protein and protein-lipid interactions that direct vesicle budding from the ER. Activation of the GDP to the GTP-bound form of Sar1 involves the membrane-associated guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF) Sec12. Sar1 is unlike all Ras superfamily GTPases that use either myristoyl or prenyl groups to direct membrane association and function, in that Sar1 lacks such modification. Instead, Sar1 contains a unique nine-amino-acid N-terminal extension. This extension contains an evolutionarily conserved cluster of bulky hydrophobic amino acids, referred to as the Sar1-N-terminal activation recruitment (STAR) motif. The STAR motif mediates the recruitment of Sar1 to ER membranes and facilitates its interaction with mammalian Sec12 GEF leading to activation.