Secretion, endocytosis and transport to the lytic compartment are fundamental, highly coordinated features of the eukaryotic cell. These intracellular transport processes are facilitated by vesicles, many of which are small (100 nm or less in diameter) and 'coated' on their cytoplasmic surface. Research into the structure of the coat proteins and how they interact with the components of the vesicle membrane to ensure the selective packaging of the cargo molecules and their correct targeting, has been quite extensive in mammalian and yeast cell biology. By contrast, our knowledge of the corresponding types of transport vesicles in plant cells is limited. Nevertheless, the available data indicate that a considerable homology between plant and non-plant coat polypeptides exists, and it is also suggestive of a certain similarity in the mechanisms underlying targeting in all eukaryotes. In this article we shall concentrate on three major types of transport vesicles: clathrin-coated vesicles, COP-coated vesicles, and 'dense' vesicles, the latter of which are responsible for the transport of vacuolar storage proteins in maturing legume cotyledons. For each we will summarize the current literature on animal and yeast cells, and then present the relevant data derived from work on plant cells. In addition, we briefly review the evidence in support of the 'SNARE' hypothesis, which explains how vesicles find and fuse with their target membrane.