The exocyst complex in exocytosis and cell migration

Protoplasma. 2012 Jul;249(3):587-97. doi: 10.1007/s00709-011-0330-1. Epub 2011 Oct 14.


Exocytosis is a fundamental membrane trafficking event in eukaryotic cells in which membrane proteins or lipids are incorporated into the plasma membrane and vesicle contents are secreted to the exterior of the cell. The exocyst, an evolutionarily conserved octameric protein complex, plays a crucial role in the targeting of secretory vesicles to the plasma membrane during exocytosis. The exocyst has been shown to be involved in diverse cellular processes requiring polarized exocytosis such as yeast budding, epithelial polarity establishment, and neurite outgrowth. Recently, the exocyst has also been implicated in cell migration through mechanisms independent of its role in exocytosis. In this review, we will first summarize our knowledge on the exocyst complex at a molecular and structural level. Then, we will discuss the specific functions of the exocyst in exocytosis in various cell types. Finally, we will review the emerging roles of the exocyst during cell migration and tumor cell invasion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actin-Related Protein 2-3 Complex / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cell Movement*
  • Exocytosis*
  • Humans
  • Protein Structure, Quaternary
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins / physiology
  • ral GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism


  • Actin-Related Protein 2-3 Complex
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins
  • ral GTP-Binding Proteins