ARF-mediated hydrolysis of GTP has been demonstrated to regulate coat disassembly of Golgi-derived COPI transport vesicles (Tanigawa, G., Orci, L., Amherdt, M., Ravazzola, M., Helms, J.B. and Rothman, J.E. (1993) J. Cell Biol. 123, 1365-1371). In addition, a requirement for GTP hydrolysis at an early stage of COPI vesicle biogenesis has been established since cargo uptake is impaired in the presence of GTPgammaS (Nickel, W., Malsam, J., Gorgas, K., Ravazzola, M., Jenne, N., Helms, J.B. and Wieland, F.T. (1998) J. Cell Sci. 111, 3081-3090), a non-hydrolyzable analogue of GTP. We now demonstrate that the GTPase involved in the regulation of cargo uptake is ARF, revealing a multi-functional role of this GTPase in COPI-mediated vesicular transport. The molecular mechanism of cargo uptake as well as the functional implications of these findings on the overall process of COPI vesicle biogenesis are discussed.