SEC16 is required for transport vesicle budding from the ER in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and encodes a large hydrophilic protein found on the ER membrane and as part of the coat of transport vesicles. In a screen to find functionally related genes, we isolated SED4 as a dosage-dependent suppressor of temperature-sensitive SEC16 mutations. Sed4p is an integral ER membrane protein whose cytosolic domain binds to the COOH-terminal domain of Sec16p as shown by two-hybrid assay and coprecipitation. The interaction between Sed4p and Sec16p probably occurs before budding is complete, because Sed4p is not found in budded vesicles. Deletion of SED4 decreases the rate of ER to Golgi transport, and exacerbates mutations defective in vesicle formation, but not those that affect later steps in the secretory pathway. Thus, Sed4p is important, but not necessary, for vesicle formation at the ER. Sec12p, a close homologue of Sed4p, also acts early in the assembly of transport vesicles. However, SEC12 performs a different function than SED4 since Sec12p does not bind Sec16p, and genetic tests show that SEC12 and SED4 are not functionally interchangeable. The importance of Sed4p for vesicle formation is underlined by the isolation of a phenotypically silent mutation, sar1-5, that produces a strong ER to Golgi transport defect when combined with sed4 mutations. Extensive genetic interactions between SAR1, SED4, and SEC16 show close functional links between these proteins and imply that they might function together as a multisubunit complex on the ER membrane.

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