As with other complex cellular functions, intracellular membrane transport involves the coordinated engagement of a series of organelles and machineries; however, the molecular basis of this coordination is unknown. Here we describe a Golgi-based signalling system that is activated by traffic and is involved in monitoring and balancing trafficking rates into and out of the Golgi complex. We provide evidence that the traffic signal is due to protein chaperones that leave the endoplasmic reticulum and reach the Golgi complex where they bind to the KDEL receptor. This initiates a signalling reaction that includes the activation of a Golgi pool of Src kinases and a phosphorylation cascade that in turn activates intra-Golgi trafficking, thereby maintaining the dynamic equilibrium of the Golgi complex. The concepts emerging from this study should help to understand the control circuits that coordinate high-order cellular functions.
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