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J Cell Sci. 2013 Nov 15;126(Pt 22):5091-100. doi: 10.1242/jcs.121061.

Imaging ER-to-Golgi transport: towards a systems view.

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European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Cell Biology and Cell Biophysics Unit, Meyerhofstra├če 1, 69117 Heidelberg, Germany.


Proteins synthesised at the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) have to undergo a number of consecutive and coordinated steps to reach the Golgi complex. To understand the dynamic complexity of ER-to-Golgi transport at the structural and molecular level, light microscopy approaches are fundamental tools that allow in vivo observations of protein dynamics and interactions of fluorescent proteins in living cells. Imaging protein and organelle dynamics close to the ultra-structural level became possible by combining light microscopy with electron microscopy analyses or super-resolution light microscopy methods. Besides, increasing evidence suggests that the early secretory pathway is tightly connected to other cellular processes, such as signal transduction, and quantitative information at the systems level is fundamental to achieve a comprehensive molecular understanding of these connections. High-throughput microscopy in fixed and living cells in combination with systematic perturbation of gene expression by, e.g. RNA interference, will open new avenues to gain such an understanding of the early secretory pathway at the systems level. In this Commentary, we first outline examples that revealed the dynamic organisation of ER-to-Golgi transport in living cells. Next, we discuss the use of advanced imaging methods in studying ER-to-Golgi transport and, finally, delineate the efforts in understanding ER-to-Golgi transport at the systems level.


Early secretory pathway; Endoplasmic reticulum; Golgi; Microscopy; Transport carriers

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