A number of recent observations have suggested that the endocytic and biosynthetic pathways may share fundamentally similar transport mechanisms at the molecular level. Some of the more striking of these suggestions have come from a comparison of the effects of the macrocyclic lactone brefeldin A (BFA) on endosomes and the Golgi complex. BFA is thought to affect Golgi-specific coat proteins that may be involved in maintaining the structural integrity of the organelle and in regulating membrane transport in the secretory pathway. Many of the effects of BFA on the endocytic system, such as the guanine nucleotide and aluminum fluoride (AlF4-)-regulated induction of microtubule-dependent endosomal tubules, are strikingly reminiscent of the action of the drug on the Golgi complex. Therefore, the similar mechanisms of action of the drug on endosomes suggest that organelles of the endocytic pathway may be associated with similar cytoplasmic coats that could regulate endosome function and integrity.