RGS (regulators of G protein signaling) proteins regulate G protein signaling by accelerating GTP hydrolysis, but little is known about regulation of GTPase-accelerating protein (GAP) activities or roles of domains and subunits outside the catalytic cores. RGS9-1 is the GAP required for rapid recovery of light responses in vertebrate photoreceptors and the only mammalian RGS protein with a defined physiological function. It belongs to an RGS subfamily whose members have multiple domains, including G(gamma)-like domains that bind G(beta)(5) proteins. Members of this subfamily play important roles in neuronal signaling. Within the GAP complex organized around the RGS domain of RGS9-1, we have identified a functional role for the G(gamma)-like-G(beta)(5L) complex in regulation of GAP activity by an effector subunit, cGMP phosphodiesterase gamma and in protein folding and stability of RGS9-1. The C-terminal domain of RGS9-1 also plays a major role in conferring effector stimulation. The sequence of the RGS domain determines whether the sign of the effector effect will be positive or negative. These roles were observed in vitro using full-length proteins or fragments for RGS9-1, RGS7, G(beta)(5S), and G(beta)(5L). The dependence of RGS9-1 on G(beta)(5) co-expression for folding, stability, and function has been confirmed in vivo using transgenic Xenopus laevis. These results reveal how multiple domains and regulatory polypeptides work together to fine tune G(talpha) inactivation.