Secretory pathway

The secretory pathway is a series of steps a cell uses to move proteins out of the cell, a process known as secretion. The path of a protein destined for secretion has its origins in the rough endoplasmic reticulum, a membrane-bound compartment in the cell. The protein then proceeds through the many compartments of the Golgi apparatus and finally ends up in a vesicle that transiently fuses at the cell plasma membrane via permanent plasma membrane structures called porosomes, depositing the proteins on the outside of the cell.

At each step along the way, there are crucial factors that determine how and if the protein will proceed. Some of these factors include regulation of transportation, selection of particular proteins, the mechanics of proceeding to the next step, and modifications that can occur to the protein along the way. All of these factors contribute to how a protein arrives outside of a cell after being synthesized.

General regulation

In general, there are two different patterns of secretion. One pattern is called constitutive secretion. Proteins are continuously secreted from the cell, regardless of environmental factors. No external signals are needed to initiate this process. Proteins are packaged in vesicles in the Golgi apparatus and are secreted via exocytosis, all around the cell. Cells that secrete constitutively have Golgi apparatus scattered throughout the cytoplasm. Fibroblasts, osteoblasts and chondrocytes are some of the many cells that perform constitutive secretion.

In regulated secretion, proteins are packaged as described in the constitutive pathway, but they are only secreted in response to a specific signal, such as neural or hormonal stimulation. Cells that use the regulated secretory pathway are usually apical or polarized. The Golgi apparatus is found in a supranuclear position (between the nucleus and the secretory surface). Examples of cells that use regulated pathway are: goblet cells (secrete mucus), beta cells of the pancreas (secrete insulin) and odontoblasts (secrete dentin). The protein pathway consists of eight steps total.

Protein translocation

The first step in a protein's journey out of the cell is getting into the endoplasmic reticulum. Two methods exist for proteins to accomplish this.

Vesicle secretion in prokaryotes

Recently, protein translocation from prokaryotic gram negative microbes contained in bacterial outer membrane vesicles has come to light. Via such a membrane vesicle trafficking process, fully conformed globular proteins of microbial origin can be translocated into eukaryotic host cells or targeted to other microbes in the micro-environment or at the host-pathogen interface.[1][2] Transmission electron microscope studies of human Salmonella 3,10:r:- introduced in ligated chicken ileal loop, reveals secretion of bacterial signals at animal host cells, as 50-90 nm diameter, bacterial outer membrane vesicles, originally recorded in vivo in year 1993.[3]

See also


  1. YashRoy R.C. (1999) 'Exocytosis in prokaryotes' and its role in Salmonella invasion. ICAR NEWS, vol. 5(No.4), page 18.'Exocytosis_in_prokaryotes'_and_its_role_in_Salmonella_invasion?ev=prf_pub
  2. YashRoy R C (2007) Mechanism of infection of a human isolate Salmonella (3,10:r:-) in chicken ileum: Ultrastructural study. Indian Journal of Medical Research, vol. 126, pp. 558-566.
  3. YashRoy R C (1993) Electron microscope studies of surface pili and vesicles of Salmonella 3,10:r:- organisms. Indian Journal of Animal Sciences, vol. 63, pp.99-102.
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