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Keywords:

  • CLIMP-63;
  • endoplasmic reticulum;
  • huntingtin;
  • kinectin;
  • membrane fusion;
  • microtubules;
  • p22;
  • p97;
  • VAP-B

The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) of higher eukaryotic cells is a dynamic network of interconnected membrane tubules that pervades almost the entire cytoplasm. On the basis of the morphological changes induced by the disruption of the cytoskeleton or molecular motor proteins, the commonly accepted model has emerged that microtubules and conventional kinesin (kinesin-1) are essential determinants in establishing and maintaining the structure of the ER by active membrane expansion. Surprisingly, very similar ER phenotypes have now been observed when the cytoskeleton-linking ER membrane protein of 63 kDa (CLIMP-63) is mutated, revealing stable attachment of ER membranes to the microtubular cytoskeleton as a novel requirement for ER maintenance. Additional recent findings suggest that ER maintenance also requires ongoing homotypic membrane fusion, possibly controlled by the p97/p47/VICP135 protein complex. Work on other proteins proposed to regulate ER structure, including huntingtin, the EF-hand Ca2+-binding protein p22, the vesicle-associated membrane protein-associated protein B and kinectin isoforms further contribute to the new emerging concept that ER shape is not only determined by motor driven processes but by a variety of different mechanisms.