Membrane-bound organelles are a wonderful evolutionary acquisition of the eukaryotic cell, allowing the segregation of sometimes incompatible biochemical reactions into specific compartments with tailored microenvironments. On the flip side, these isolating membranes that crowd the interior of the cell, constitute a hindrance to the diffusion of metabolites and information to all corners of the cell. To ensure coordination of cellular activities, cells use a network of contact sites between the membranes of different organelles. These membrane contact sites (MCSs) are domains where two membranes come to close proximity, typically less than 30nm. Such contacts create microdomains that favor exchange between two organelles. MCSs are established and maintained in durable or transient states by tethering structures, which keep the two membranes in proximity, but fusion between the membranes does not take place. Since the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is the most extensive cellular membrane network, it is thus not surprising to find the ER involved in most MCSs within the cell. The ER contacts diverse compartments such as mitochondria, lysosomes, lipid droplets, the Golgi apparatus, endosomes and the plasma membrane. In this review, we will focus on the common organizing principles underlying the many MCSs found between the ER and virtually all compartments of the cell, and on how the ER establishes a network of MCSs for the trafficking of vital metabolites and information. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Functional and structural diversity of endoplasmic reticulum.
Keywords: Calcium; Endoplasmic reticulum; Interorganelle communication; Lipid; Membrane contact site; Organelle.
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