Recent work supports the idea that cisternae of the Golgi apparatus can be assigned to three classes, which correspond to discrete stages of cisternal maturation. Each stage has a unique pattern of membrane traffic. At the first stage, cisternae form in association with the ER at multifunctional membrane assembly stations. At the second stage, cisternae synthesize carbohydrates while exchanging material via COPI vesicles. At the third stage, cisternae of the trans-Golgi network segregate into domains and produce transport carriers with the aid of specific lipids and the actin cytoskeleton. These processes are coordinated by cascades of Rab and Arf/Arl GTPases.
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