The formation of coated vesicles is a fundamental step in many intracellular trafficking pathways. COPI and clathrin represent two important and distinct sets of vesicle coating machinery, involved primarily in mediating intra-Golgi and endocytic transport, respectively. Here we identify an important functional region at the carboxyl terminus of the gamma subunit of the COPI complex (gammaCOP) and describe the X-ray crystal structure of this domain at 2.3 A resolution. This domain of gammaCOP exhibits unexpected structural similarity to the carboxyl-terminal appendage domains of the alpha and beta subunits of the AP2 adaptor proteins, integral components of clathrin-coated vesicles. The remarkable structural conservation exhibited by the gammaCOP appendage domain, coupled with functional data and primary sequence analysis, supports a model of COPI function with significant structural and mechanistic parallels to vesicular transport by the clathrin/AP2 system.
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