We have used an in vitro assay that reconstitutes transport from the ER to the Golgi complex in yeast to identify a functional vesicular intermediate in transit to the Golgi apparatus. Permeabilized yeast cells, which serve as the donor in this assay, release a homogeneous population of vesicles that are biochemically distinct from the donor ER fraction. The isolated vesicles, containing a post-ER/pre-Golgi form of the marker protein pro-alpha-factor, were able to bind to and fuse with exogenously added Golgi membranes. The ability to isolate fusion competent vesicles provides direct evidence that ER to Golgi membrane transport is mediated by a discrete population of vesicular carriers.

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