PerspectiveCell Biology

A finer look at a fine cellular meshwork

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Science  28 Oct 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6311, pp. 415-416
DOI: 10.1126/science.aal0052

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Summary

Students learning about the eukaryotic cell are taught that mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell, the nucleus is the information storehouse, and lysosomes are the garbage disposal. Summing up the role of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is more problematic, even for professional cell biologists. Classically, the ER is where membrane proteins, secreted proteins, and most lipids are synthesized. It is also the site of calcium regulation. More recent work shows that it is the site of antigen presentation by major histocompatibility complex class I molecules, and the location of the unfolded protein response, now thought to be central to several major diseases. A new frontier is its relationships with other organelles (1). On page 433 of this issue, Nixon-Abell et al. (2) describe how an armamentarium of superresolution imaging techniques reveals new aspects of the ER's very heterogeneous morphology. Indeed, the “form follows function” adage may help to make sense of this organelle's functional issues.