Secretory granules are specialized intracellular organelles that serve as a storage pool for selected secretory products. The exocytosis of secretory granules is markedly amplified under physiologically stimulated conditions. While granules have been recognized as post-Golgi carriers for almost 40 years, the molecular mechanisms involved in their formation from the trans-Golgi network are only beginning to be defined. This review summarizes and evaluates current information about how secretory proteins are thought to be sorted for the regulated secretory pathway and how these activities are positioned with respect to other post-Golgi sorting events that must occur in parallel. In the first half of the review, the emerging role of immature secretory granules in protein sorting is highlighted. The second half of the review summarizes what is known about the composition of granule membranes. The numerous similarities and relatively limited differences identified between granule membranes and other vesicular carriers that convey products to and from the plasmalemma, serve as a basis for examining how granule membrane composition might be established and how its unique functions interface with general post-Golgi membrane traffic. Studies of granule formation in vitro offer additional new insights, but also important challenges for future efforts to understand how regulated secretory pathways are constructed and maintained.

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