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The reformation of functioning organelles at the end of mitosis presents a problem in vesicle targeting. Using extracts made from Xenopus laevis frog eggs, we have studied in vitro the vesicles that reform the nuclear envelope. In the in vitro assay, nuclear envelope growth is linear with time. Furthermore, the final surface area of the nuclear envelopes formed is directly dependent upon the amount of membrane vesicles added to the assay. Egg membrane vesicles could be fractionated into two populations, only one of which was competent for nuclear envelope assembly. We found that vesicles active in nuclear envelope assembly contained markers (BiP and alpha-glucosidase II) characteristic of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), but that the majority of ER-derived vesicles do not contribute to nuclear envelope size. This functional distinction between nuclear vesicles and ER-derived vesicles implies that nuclear vesicles are unique and possess at least one factor required for envelope assembly that is lacking in other vesicles. Consistent with this, treatment of vesicles with trypsin destroyed their ability to form a nuclear envelope; electron microscopic studies indicate that the trypsin-sensitive proteins is required for vesicles to bind to chromatin. However, the protease- sensitive component(s) is resistant to treatments that disrupt protein- protein interactions, such as high salt, EDTA, or low ionic strength solutions. We propose that an integral membrane protein, or protein tightly associated with the membrane, is critical for nuclear vesicle targeting or function.