From Cellular Biology to Molecular Biology: Golgi Apparatus from the Discovery to Nowadays


  • Mario Falchetti Department of Experimental Medicine, “La Sapienza” University, Rome, I
  • Ramona Lupi Department of Experimental Medicine, “La Sapienza” University, Rome, I
  • Laura Ottini Department of Experimental Medicine, History of Medicine Section, “La Sapienza” University, Rome, I


Cell theory , Golgi apparatus discovery, Cell biology , Molecular biology


On April the 9th 1898 Golgi presented the discovery of the Apparato Reticolare Interno or internal reticular apparatus to the Società Medico- Chirurgica in Pavia. The internal reticular apparatus was described as “a fine and elegant network within the cell body” of Purkinje cells. The discovery of this new intracellular structure can be considered a byproduct of Golgi studies devoted to the analysis of the nervous system histology. Golgi and his co-workers detected the internal reticular apparatus in many cell types and described the organelle pleiomorphism due to specific physiological or pathological conditions. However, the real existence of the apparatus was questioned until the organelle was finally identified by electron microscopy in 1954. At this point Golgi apparatus became an actual intracellular structure without any clear function. The involvement in cell secretion processes was verified by using biochemical and molecular investigations from the 1960s. Nowadays, Golgi apparatus is clearly known to be involved in different cell functions as growth, homeostasis and division. The correct execution of these functions lies on the ability to maintain an equilibrated balance between the proteins therein resident. Recently, Golgi apparatus has been involved also in human pathology as mutations in proteins localized in the organelle are linked to some hereditary disorders like the Lowe syndrome.Golgi apparatus has been debated since its discovery. From the Golgi milestones discussed here it is evident that controversies that have arisen were often resolved by information resulting from the application of new technical developments. Indeed the compound dynamic structure and the relevance in cell physiology and in human pathology render Golgi apparatus an open object for future studies. Overall, the history of the Golgi apparatus represents an excellent model not only to follow the transition of the study approaches from cellular biology to molecular cell biology but also to understand the current attention paid to integrate the molecular function and the organelle structure in order to explain what goes wrong in the context of human disease.