Small GTP-binding proteins belonging to the rab/YPT family play key roles at various steps in intracellular transport pathways in yeast and mammalian cells. Many members of rab/YPT family have been isolated from plants to date. However, detailed information about the localization and function of the gene products remains limited, even though intracellular transport is likely to be involved in important phenomena such as cell elongation, transport of storage proteins, determination and maintenance of cell polarity and intercellular signal transduction. We have attempted to establish transgenic Arabidopsis plants that overexpress ARA-4, a rab/YPT homologue in order to analyze the function and the localization of the gene product. For overexpression and also for regulation of the expression of this gene, the promoter of the gene for HSP81-1 was employed to drive the transcription of ARA-4 in transgenic plants. The response of the introduced genes to heat shock was analyzed. Upon heat-shock treatment, the ARA-4 gene was efficiently transcribed and translated. The induction of ARA-4 by heat shock was transient, and at least two distinct forms of this protein were found in membrane and cytosolic fractions from transgenic plants. Prolonged incubation after heat shock reduced the amount of the cytosolic form of the induced protein, and the cytosolic form of the protein thus probably represents the unprocessed precursor. Using transgenic plants, we determined the subcellular localization of the product of ARA-4. The protein was predominantly localized on Golgi-derived vesicles, Golgi cisternae and the trans-Golgi network.