Retrograde traffic in the biosynthetic-secretory route: pathways and machinery

Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2003 Aug;15(4):438-45. doi: 10.1016/s0955-0674(03)00077-2.


In the secretory pathway, the forward (anterograde) membrane flow is compensated by retrograde transport of proteins and lipids. Membrane recycling is required for the maintenance of organelle homeostasis and the re-use of components of the transport machineries for the generation of new transport intermediates. However, the molecular mechanisms and other cellular functions of retrograde traffic are still poorly understood. In recent years, a multitude of protein factors that function in the secretory pathway have been discovered, most of them originally suggested to play a role in forward trafficking. However, in many cases subsequent studies have revealed that these proteins participate (also) in retrograde traffic. It is likely that this shift will continue, reflecting the fact that the two pathways are intimately connected.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • COP-Coated Vesicles / metabolism
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism
  • Endosomes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Membranes / metabolism*
  • Protein Transport / physiology
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • trans-Golgi Network / metabolism*


  • Carrier Proteins
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins