BACKGROUND: In Drosophila, the early secretory apparatus comprises discrete paired Golgi stacks in close proximity to exit sites from the endoplasmic reticulum (tER sites), thus forming tER-Golgi units. Although many components involved in secretion have been identified, the structural components sustaining its organisation are less known. Here we set out to identify novel ER resident proteins involved in the of tER-Golgi unit organisation. RESULTS: To do so, we designed a novel screening strategy combining a bioinformatics pre-selection with an RNAi screen. We first selected 156 proteins exhibiting known or related ER retention/retrieval signals from a list of proteins predicted to have a signal sequence. We then performed a microscopy-based primary and confirmation RNAi screen in Drosophila S2 cells directly scoring the organisation of the tER-Golgi units. We identified 49 hits, most of which leading to an increased number of smaller tER-Golgi units (MG for "more and smaller Golgi") upon depletion. 16 of them were validated and characterised, showing that this phenotype was not due to an inhibition in secretion, a block in G2, or ER stress. Interestingly, the MG phenotype was often accompanied by an increase in the cell volume. Out of 6 proteins, 4 were localised to the ER. CONCLUSIONS: This work has identified novel proteins involved in the organisation of the Drosophila early secretory pathway. It contributes to the effort of assigning protein functions to gene annotation in the secretory pathway, and analysis of the MG hits revealed an enrichment of ER proteins. These results suggest a link between ER localisation, aspects of cell metabolism and tER-Golgi structural organisation.