The studies reported here will summarize the major events taking place during the synthesis, intracellular transport and discharge of secretory proteins from the pancreatic acinar cell. We will summarize the work that led to the definition of the regulated secretory pathway in the acinar cell followed by an update of the major steps in the pathway to incorporate new information on vesicular transport that has been gathered over the past 10 years from a number of laboratories. These studies arise from an amazing convergence of information derived from studies on the simpler eukaryote, S. cerevisiae, from biochemical analysis of neurotransmitter release, and from in vitro membrane fusion systems that have allowed for the dissection of the proteins involved in membrane recognition and fusion. Taken together, these studies have shown that the major proteins involved in membrane targeting and fusion, and the accessory proteins that control these events, are highly conserved over vast periods of evolutionary time. Thus, information derived from each of these systems and approaches can be transferred directly to regulated exocytosis in the pancreatic acinar cell — a system that has superimposed on it the complexities of organization into a polarized epithelium and control from the extracellular milieu via neurohormones. The ensuing hypothesis that integrates this body of information is termed the SNARE hypothesis. According to this hypothesis, the core complex of NSF (N-ethylmaleimide sensitive fusion protein) and SNAPs (soluble NSF attachment proteins) pair with their cognate receptors, SNAREs, present on the vesicles (v-SNARE) and the target membrane (t-SNARE) to form a complex that can lead to specific docking and fusion of the vesicles with their target membranes. This process is believed to be controlled by a variety of accessory proteins including synaptotagmin, a Ca2+ binding clamp for exocytosis and members of the rab family of low molecular weight GTP-binding proteins. Several of these proteins have been found by us to be present in the pancreatic acinar cell and are likely involved in similar processes that have been worked out in simpler systems. For example, we have shown that rab3D is uniquely associated with the cytosolic side of zymogen granule membranes as an integral membrane protein and that peptides from the effector domain of the rab proteins are able to induce secretion from permeabilized acinar cells, suggesting a role for this process in regulated exocytosis. These types of approaches are being used to define the localizaiton and function of members of the SNARE family of proteins and of proteins that control formation of the SNARE complex with a particular emphasis on their role in hormonally-elicited secretion. In our presentations, we will also discuss the acquisition of stimulus secretion coupling during the perinatal period in the developing rat pancreas since this system provides the possibility of defining, in a system that does not require exogenous transfection, the sequential expression of factors involved in membrane targeting and fusion. For example, during secretogenesis, rab3D is initially cytosolic at a time when the machinery of exocytosis is present but not functional, and only becomes associated with zymogen granule membranes after birth when stimulus-secretion coupling is acquired.