We had previously demonstrated that Rab3a-GTP inhibits and the Rab3a-binding protein Rabphilin3a enhances secretion in bovine chromaffin cells. In this study, we investigated the role of Rab3a-GTP binding in the intracellular expression and the function of Rabphilin3a in regulated exocytosis in bovine chromaffin cells. Using transient transfections, we found that a minimal domain, Rp(51-190), that inhibits secretion coincides with a minimal domain that effectively binds Rab3a-GTP and allows intracellular stability of the construct. This domain includes a cysteine-rich, Zn2+-binding domain whose integrity is also required for Rab3a-GTP binding and the ability to inhibit secretion. A Rabphilin3a mutant, containing both C2 domains but defective in Rab3a-GTP, and wild-type Rabphilin3a both localized to chromaffin granules and stimulated secretion similarly despite lessened intracellular expression of the mutant protein. The data are consistent with a sequence of events in which a Rab3a-GTP x Rabphilin3a complex forms on the secretory granule as a precursor in a pathway that enhances secretion. The complex dissociates (perhaps because of GTP hydrolysis) to permit the enhancement of secretion by Rabphilin3a.