A tendency in cell biology is to divide and conquer. For example, decades of painstaking work have led to an understanding of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and Golgi structure, dynamics, and transport. In parallel, cytoskeletal researchers have revealed a fantastic diversity of structure and cellular function in both actin and microtubules. Increasingly, these areas overlap, necessitating an understanding of both organelle and cytoskeletal biology. This review addresses connections between the actin/microtubule cytoskeletons and organelles in animal cells, focusing on three key areas: ER structure and function; ER-to-Golgi transport; and Golgi structure and function. Making these connections has been challenging for several reasons: the small sizes and dynamic characteristics of some components; the fact that organelle-specific cytoskeletal elements can easily be obscured by more abundant cytoskeletal structures; and the difficulties in imaging membranes and cytoskeleton simultaneously, especially at the ultrastructural level. One major concept is that the cytoskeleton is frequently used to generate force for membrane movement, with two potential consequences: translocation of the organelle, or deformation of the organelle membrane. While initially discussing issues common to metazoan cells in general, we subsequently highlight specific features of neurons, since these highly polarized cells present unique challenges for organellar distribution and dynamics.
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