Effective cellular function requires both compartmentalization of tasks in space and time, and coordination of those efforts. The endoplasmic reticulum's (ER) expansive and ramifying structure makes it ideally suited to serve as a regulatory platform for organelle–organelle communication through membrane contacts. These contact sites consist of two membranes juxtaposed at a distance less than 30 nm that mediate the exchange of lipids and ions without the need for membrane fission or fusion, a process distinct from classical vesicular transport. Membrane contact sites are positioned by organelle-specific membrane–membrane tethering proteins and contain a growing number of additional proteins that organize information transfer to shape membrane identity. Here we briefly review the role of ER-containing membrane junctions in two important cellular functions: calcium signalling and phosphoinositide processing.

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