The 100-110-kD proteins (alpha-, beta-, beta'-, and gamma-adaptins) of clathrin-coated vesicles and the 110-kD protein (beta-COP) of the nonclathrin-coated vesicles that mediate constitutive transport through the Golgi have homologous protein sequences. To determine whether homologous processes are involved in assembly of the two types of coated vesicles, the membrane binding properties of their coat proteins were compared. After treatment of MDBK cells with the fungal metabolite Brefeldin A (BFA), beta-COP was redistributed to the cytoplasm within 15 s, gamma-adaptin and clathrin in the trans-Golgi network (TGN) dispersed within 30 s, but the alpha-adaptin and clathrin present on coated pits and vesicles derived from the plasma membrane remained membrane associated even after a 15-min exposure to BFA. In PtK1 cells and MDCK cells, BFA did not affect beta-COP binding or Golgi morphology but still induced redistribution of gamma-adaptin and clathrin from TGN membranes to the cytoplasm. Thus BFA affects the binding of coat proteins to membranes in the Golgi region (Golgi apparatus and TGN) but not plasma membranes. However, the Golgi binding interactions of beta-COP and gamma-adaptin are distinct and differentially sensitive to BFA. BFA treatment did not release gamma-adaptin or clathrin from purified clathrin-coated vesicles, suggesting that their distribution to the cytoplasm after BFA treatment of cells was due to interference with their rebinding to TGN membranes after a normal cycle of disassembly. This was confirmed using an in vitro assay in which gamma-adaptin binding to TGN membranes was blocked by BFA and enhanced by GTP gamma S, similar to the binding of beta-COP to Golgi membranes. These results suggest the involvement of GTP-dependent proteins in the association of the 100-kD coat proteins with membranes in the Golgi region of the cell.