Members of the rab/YPT1/SEC4 gene family of small molecular weight GTPases play key roles in the regulation of vesicular traffic between compartments of the exocytic pathway. Using immunoelectron microscopy, we demonstrate that a dominant negative rab1a mutant, rab1a(N124I), defective for guanine nucleotide binding in vitro, leads to the accumulation of vesicular stomatitis virus glycoprotein (VSV-G) in numerous pre-cis-Golgi vesicles and vesicular-tubular clusters containing rab1 and beta-COP, a subunit of the coatomer complex. Similar to previous observations (Balch et al. 1994. Cell. 76:841-852), VSV-G was concentrated nearly 5-10-fold in vesicular carriers that accumulate in the presence of the rab1a(N124I) mutant. VSV-G containing vesicles and vesicular-tubular clusters were also found to accumulate in the presence of a rab1a effector domain peptide mimetic that inhibits endoplasmic reticulum to Golgi transport, as well as in the absence of Ca2+. These results suggest that the combined action of a Ca(2+)-dependent protein and conformational changes associated with the GTPase cycle of rab1 are essential for a late targeting/fusion step controlling the delivery of vesicles to Golgi compartments.

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