The organization of intracellular compartments and the transfer of components between them are central to the correct functioning of mammalian cells. Proteins and lipids are transferred between compartments by the formation, movement and subsequent specific fusion of transport intermediates. These vesicles and membrane clusters must be coupled to the cytoskeleton and to motor proteins that drive motility. Anterograde ER (endoplasmic reticulum)-to-Golgi transport, and the converse step of retrograde traffic from the Golgi to the ER, are now known to involve coupling of membranes to the microtubule cytoskeleton. Here we shall discuss our current understanding of the mechanisms that link membrane traffic in the early secretory pathway to the microtubule cytoskeleton in mammalian cells. Recent data have also provided molecular detail of functional co-ordination of motor proteins to specify directionality, as well as mechanisms for regulating motor activity by protein phosphorylation.

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