Membrane trafficking in eukaryotic cells is a highly dynamic process, which needs to adapt to a variety of cargo proteins. The COPII coat mediates ER export of thousands of proteins with a wide range of sizes by generating coated membrane vesicles that incapsulate cargo. The process of assembly and disassembly of COPII, regulated by GTP hydrolysis, is a major determinant of the size and shape of transport carriers. Here, we analyse our knowledge of the COPII coat architecture and it assembly/disassembly dynamics, and link coat flexibility to the role of COPII in transport of large cargoes. We propose a common mechanism of action of regulatory factors that modulate COPII GTP hydrolysis cycle to promote budding.
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