Our textbook image of organelles has changed. Instead of revealing isolated cellular compartments, the picture now emerging shows organelles as largely interdependent structures that can communicate through membrane contact sites (MCSs). MCSs are sites where opposing organelles are tethered but do not fuse. MCSs provide a hybrid location where the tool kits of two different organelles can work together to perform vital cellular functions, such as lipid and ion transfer, signaling, and organelle division. Here, we focus on MCSs involving the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), an organelle forming an extensive network of cisternae and tubules. We highlight how the dynamic ER network regulates a plethora of cellular processes through MCSs with various organelles and with the plasma membrane.
Copyright © 2018, American Association for the Advancement of Science.