Members of the Rab family of small molecular weight GTPases regulate the fusion of transport intermediates to target membranes along the biosynthetic and endocytic pathways. We recently demonstrated that Rab1 recruitment of the tethering factor p115 into a cis-SNARE complex programs coat protein II vesicles budding from the endoplasmic reticulum (donor compartment) for fusion with the Golgi apparatus (acceptor compartment) (Allan BB, Moyer BD, Balch WE. Science 2000; 289: 444-448). However, the molecular mechanism(s) of Rab regulation of Golgi acceptor compartment function in endoplasmic reticulum to Golgi transport are unknown. Here, we demonstrate that the cis-Golgi tethering protein GM130, complexed with GRASP65 and other proteins, forms a novel Rab1 effector complex that interacts with activated Rab1-GTP in a p115-independent manner and is required for coat protein II vesicle targeting/fusion with the cis-Golgi. We propose a 'homing hypothesis' in which the same Rab interacts with distinct tethering factors at donor and acceptor membranes to program heterotypic membrane fusion events between transport intermediates and their target compartments.