Cellular life depends on protein transport and membrane traffic. In multicellular organisms, membrane traffic is required for extracellular matrix deposition, cell adhesion, growth factor release, and receptor signaling, which are collectively required to integrate the development and physiology of tissues and organs. Understanding the regulatory mechanisms that govern cargo and membrane flow presents a prime challenge in cell biology. Extracellular matrix (ECM) secretion remains poorly understood, although given its essential roles in the regulation of cell migration, differentiation, and survival, ECM secretion mechanisms are likely to be tightly controlled. Recent studies in vertebrate model systems, from fishes to mammals and in human patients, have revealed complex and diverse loss-of-function phenotypes associated with mutations in components of the secretory machinery. A broad spectrum of diseases from skeletal and cardiovascular to neurological deficits have been linked to ECM trafficking. These discoveries have directly challenged the prevailing view of secretion as an essential but monolithic process. Here, we will discuss the latest findings on mechanisms of ECM trafficking in vertebrates.
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