In the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, glycoproteins and sphingolipids are modified in the Golgi by the addition of mannose residues. The critical mannosyl donor for these reactions is the nucleotide sugar, GDP-mannose, whose transport into the Golgi from the cytoplasm is required for mannosylation. This transport reaction has been well characterized, but the nucleotide sugar transporter has yet to be identified in yeast. VRG4 is an essential gene whose product is required for a number of Golgi-specific functions, including glycosylation and the organization of the endomembrane system. Here, data are presented that demonstrate that the primary role of Vrg4p is in the transport of GDP-mannose into the Golgi. The vrg4 mutation causes a general impairment in mannosylation, affecting N-linked and O-linked glycoprotein modifications as well as the mannosylation of sphingolipids. By using an in vitro assay, vrg4 mutants were shown to be specifically defective in the transport of GDP-mannose into Golgi vesicles. The Vrg4 protein localizes to the Golgi complex in a pattern that suggests a wide distribution throughout the Golgi. Vrg4p displays homology to other putative nucleotide sugar transporters, suggesting that the VRG4 gene encodes a Golgi GDP-mannose transporter. As Vrg4p is essential, these results suggest that a complete lack of mannosylation of glycoproteins in the Golgi leads to inviability. Alternatively, the essential function of Vrg4p in yeast involves its effect on sphingolipids, which would imply a critical role for mannosylinositol phosphorylceramides or mannosyl diphosphoinositol ceramides on growth and viability.