The small GTP-binding protein rab5 was previously localized on early endosomes and on the cytoplasmic face of the plasma membrane. Using a cell-free assay, we have now tested whether rab5 is involved in controlling an early endocytic fusion event. Fusion could be inhibited by cytosol containing the overexpressed mutant rab5lle133, which does not bind GTP on blots, and by antibodies against rab5, but not against rab2 or rab7. In contrast, fusion was stimulated with cytosol containing overexpressed wild-type rab5. Cytosols containing high levels of rab2 or mutant rab5 with the 9 carboxy-terminal amino acids deleted, which bind GTP on blots, had no effects. Finally, the inhibition mediated by anti-rab5 antibodies could be overcome by complementing the assay with the cytosol containing wild-type rab5, but not with the same cytosol depleted of rab5, nor with cytosol containing the rab5 mutants or rab2. These in vitro findings strongly suggest that rab5 is involved in the process of early endosome fusion.