Membrane contact sites (MCSs) are sites where the membranes of two different organelles come into close apposition (10–30 nm). Different classes of proteins populate MCSs including factors that act as tethers between the two membranes, proteins that use the MCSs for their function (mainly lipid or ion exchange), and regulatory proteins and enzymes that can act in trans across the MCSs. The ER-Golgi MCSs were visualized by electron microscopists early in the sixties but have remained elusive for decades due to a lack of suitable methodological approaches. Here we report recent progress in the study of this class of MCSs that has led to the identification of their main morphological features and of some of their components and roles. Among these, lipid transfer proteins and lipid exchange have been the most studied and understood so far. However, many unknowns remain regarding their regulation and their role in controlling key TGN functions such as sorting and trafficking as well as their relevance in physiological and pathological conditions.

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