Export of many secretory proteins from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) relies on signal-mediated sorting into ER-derived transport vesicles. Recent work on the coat protein complex II (COPII) provides new insight into the mechanisms and signals that govern this selective export process. Conserved di-acidic and di-hydrophobic motifs found in specific transmembrane cargo proteins are required for their selection into COPII-coated vesicles. These signaling elements are cytoplasmically exposed and recognized by subunits of the COPII coat. Certain soluble cargo molecules depend on receptor-like proteins for efficient ER export, although signals that direct soluble cargo into ER-derived vesicles are less defined.