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Mol Biol Cell. 2007 Apr;18(4):1430-6. Epub 2007 Jan 31.

Functional symmetry of endomembranes.

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  • 1Section of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Department of Biomedicine, University of Bergen, N-5009 Bergen, Norway.


In higher eukaryotic cells pleiomorphic compartments composed of vacuoles, tubules and vesicles move from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and the plasma membrane to the cell center, operating in early biosynthetic trafficking and endocytosis, respectively. Besides transporting cargo to the Golgi apparatus and lysosomes, a major task of these compartments is to promote extensive membrane recycling. The endocytic membrane system is traditionally divided into early (sorting) endosomes, late endosomes and the endocytic recycling compartment (ERC). Recent studies on the intermediate compartment (IC) between the ER and the Golgi apparatus suggest that it also consists of peripheral ("early") and centralized ("late") structures, as well as a third component, designated here as the biosynthetic recycling compartment (BRC). We propose that the ERC and the BRC exist as long-lived "mirror compartments" at the cell center that also share the ability to expand and become mobilized during cell activation. These considerations emphasize the functional symmetry of endomembrane compartments, which provides a basis for the membrane rearrangements taking place during cell division, polarization, and differentiation.

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