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Genomic and proteomic studies of the secretory pathway indicate remarkable similarity across kingdoms. Nevertheless, the plant endomembrane system, while displaying the same basic characteristics as its yeast and mammalian counterparts, is in many respects structurally and functionally unique. This uniqueness is manifested in the individual nature of the Golgi apparatus, the relationship between endomembrane system and cytoskeleton and the complexity of the various transport pathways from the Golgi to the vacuolar system. This short series of reviews examines the distinct features of the plant secretory pathway, with the authors adding their own perspective to a number of controversial ideas.

Starting at the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), Vitale and Boston (1) consider the features of protein quality control in the plant ER, with particular emphasis on plant-specific processes such as seed development, storage protein synthesis and pathogen response. Hawes et al. (2) look at the novel features of the plant ER–Golgi interface with emphasis on the fact that plant Golgi stacks are exceedingly mobile and often appear closely associated with the ER. Frigerio et al. (3) take a close look at the evidence for multiple types of vacuoles in plant cells and discuss the generality of the multivacuole hypothesis.

The study of endocytosis in plants has seen a resurgence in the past few years. This is in part because of the discovery that auxin efflux carriers and brassinosteroid receptors can cycle from the plasma membrane to endosomal compartments. In addition, the high quality of preservation of multivesicular bodies in electron microscopy studies, afforded by high-pressure freezing, has enabled the identification of these organelles as an integral part of the endocytic and vacuolar transport pathways. Otegui and Spitzer (4) review the latest ideas and discoveries of what is perhaps one of the least understood aspects of the plant endomembrane system.

Finally, Foresti and Denecke (5) present an overview of the plant secretory pathway, highlighting plant-specific features and offering a fresh view on post-Golgi compartments.

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