A three-stage model of Golgi structure and function

Histochem Cell Biol. 2013 Sep;140(3):239-49. doi: 10.1007/s00418-013-1128-3. Epub 2013 Jul 24.


The Golgi apparatus contains multiple classes of cisternae that differ in structure, composition, and function, but there is no consensus about the number and definition of these classes. A useful way to classify Golgi cisternae is according to the trafficking pathways by which the cisternae import and export components. By this criterion, we propose that Golgi cisternae can be divided into three classes that correspond to functional stages of maturation. First, cisternae at the cisternal assembly stage receive COPII vesicles from the ER and recycle components to the ER in COPI vesicles. At this stage, new cisternae are generated. Second, cisternae at the carbohydrate synthesis stage exchange material with one another via COPI vesicles. At this stage, most of the glycosylation and polysaccharide synthesis reactions occur. Third, cisternae at the carrier formation stage produce clathrin-coated vesicles and exchange material with endosomes. At this stage, biosynthetic cargo proteins are packaged into various transport carriers, and the cisternae ultimately disassemble. Discrete transitions occur as a cisterna matures from one stage to the next. Within each stage, the structure and composition of a cisterna can evolve, but the trafficking pathways remain unchanged. This model offers a unified framework for understanding the properties of the Golgi in diverse organisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism
  • Glycosylation
  • Golgi Apparatus / chemistry*
  • Golgi Apparatus / physiology*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Polysaccharides / biosynthesis
  • Polysaccharides / chemistry


  • Polysaccharides