Tetrahymena thermophila possesses a regulated secretory pathway in which mucin proteins are stored in dense-core granules, called mucocysts. Exocytosis-defective mutants exist that fail to secrete mucin in response to secretagogues. Four of the mutants (SB281, SB283, SB285 and SB715) appear to be blocked at different steps of the regulated secretory pathway. SB281 and SB285 accumulate mucin proteins in heterogeneous cytoplasmic organelles which have not yet been identified; SB283 makes mucocyst-like structures but they contain no immunologically identifiable 80-kDa or 50-kDa mucin proteins; and SB715 has more than normal amounts of immature and undocked mucocysts. The organelles that accumulate in exocytosis-defective mutants could be either normal intermediates in the biosynthetic pathway or aberrant structures that form as a result of the mutations. We have used conjugation rescue to analyze steps in the biogenesis of exocytosis-competent mucocysts and to identify functional intermediates. The cytoplasmic organelles that accumulate in SB281 appear to be unidentified biosynthetic intermediates, and the defect is in a cytosolic protein essential for mucocyst maturation. The organelles which accumulate in the other mutants are likely biosynthetic, but their mutations are in proteins which are labile or not free to diffuse into the mutant conjugant.