In the leaf epidermis, intricately lobed pavement cells use Rho of plants (ROP) small GTPases to integrate actin and microtubule organization with trafficking through the secretory pathway. Cell signaling occurs because guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs) promote ROP activation and their interactions with effector proteins that direct the cell growth machineries. In Arabidopsis, SPIKE1 (SPK1) is the lone DOCK family GEF. SPK1 promotes polarized growth and cell-cell adhesion in the leaf epidermis; however, its mode of action in cells is not known. Vertebrate DOCK proteins are deployed at the plasma membrane. Likewise, current models place SPK1 activity and/or active ROP at the plant plasma membrane and invoke the localized patterning of the cortical cytoskeleton as the mechanism for shape control. In this paper, we find that SPK1 is a peripheral membrane protein that accumulates at, and promotes the formation of, a specialized domain of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) termed the ER exit site (ERES). SPK1 signals are generated from a distributed network of ERES point sources and maintain the homeostasis of the early secretory pathway. The ERES is the location for cargo export from the ER. Our findings open up unexpected areas of plant G protein biology and redefine the ERES as a subcellular location for signal integration during morphogenesis.
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