The single transmembrane domains (TMDs) of the resident glycosylation enzymes of the Golgi apparatus are involved in preventing these proteins moving beyond the Golgi. It has been proposed that either the TMDs associate, resulting in the formation of large oligomers of Golgi enzymes, or that they mediate the lateral segregation of the enzymes between lipid microdomains. Evidence for either type of interaction has been sought by examining the retention of sialyltransferase (ST), an enzyme of the mammalian trans Golgi. No evidence could be obtained for specific interactions or 'kin recognition' between ST and other proteins of the trans Golgi. Moreover, it is shown that the previously described kin recognition between enzymes of the medial Golgi involves the lumenal portions of these proteins rather than their TMDs. To investigate further the role of the ST TMD, the effects on Golgi retention of various alterations in the TMD were examined. The addition or removal of residues showed that the efficiency of retention of ST is related to TMD length. Moreover, when a type I plasma membrane protein was expressed with a synthetic TMD of 23 leucines it appeared on the cell surface, but when the TMD was shortened to 17 leucines accumulation in the Golgi was observed. These observations are more consistent with lipid-based sorting of ST TMD, but they also allow for reconciliation with the kin recognition model which appears to act on sequences outside of the TMD.