All eukaryotes possess a secretory pathway, and the major molecular players involved in secretion are well conserved. However, the morphological manifestation of this pathway at the level of the participant organelles shows great divergences between yeasts, mammals and plants. The unique features of the early secretory pathway in plants - a polydisperse mobile Golgi apparatus and the lack of an intermediate compartment between the endoplasmic reticulum and the Golgi apparatus - suggests the participation of many plant-specific molecules in the maintenance and regulation of protein trafficking. The advent of live cell imaging fluorescently-tagged proteins and the increased usage of cryotechniques in electron microscopy has led to dramatic advances in our understanding of the early secretory pathway of plants. In contrast, contradictions have sometimes emerged and interpretations for the same observations have not necessarily reached a consensus. In this review we have attempted to provide the reader with a critical, yet balanced overview of this rapidly expanding research area. Wherever possible we have contrasted a particular event or parameter with the corresponding situation in yeast or mammalian cells. We have also taken the opportunity to suggest suitable experimentation in newly emerging sectors.
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