The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) has a broad localization throughout the cell and forms direct physical contacts with all other classes of membranous organelles, including the plasma membrane (PM). A number of protein tethers that mediate these contacts have been identified, and study of these protein tethers has revealed a multiplicity of roles in cell physiology, including regulation of intracellular Ca2+ dynamics and signaling as well as control of lipid traffic and homeostasis. In this review, we discuss the cross talk between the ER and the PM mediated by direct contacts. We review factors that tether the two membranes, their properties, and their dynamics in response to the functional state of the cell. We focus in particular on the role of ER–PM contacts in nonvesicular lipid transport between the two bilayers mediated by lipid transfer proteins.


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