Disruption of the Golgi by brefeldin A (BFA) has been reported to block fast axonal transport and axonal growth. We used compartmented cultures of rat sympathetic neurons to investigate its effects on slow axonal transport. BFA (1 micro g/ml) applied to cell bodies/proximal axons for 6-20 h disrupted the Golgi, reversibly blocked axonal growth, and reversibly blocked anterograde transport of all proteins, including tubulin. The retrograde transport of nerve growth factor (NGF) was also blocked. The phosphorylation of Erk1 and Erk2 in response to NGF was unaffected after 6 h of treatment with BFA, suggesting that the block of axonal transport was specific and direct. Consistent with its principal site of action at the Golgi, no effects were observed when BFA was applied only to the distal axons. Block of fast anterograde and retrograde axonal transport is consistent with the role of the Golgi in supplying transport vesicles. Block of slow axonal transport was surprising, and further results indicated that transport of tubulin en route along the axon was arrested by application of BFA to the cell bodies, suggesting that a continuous supply of anterograde transport vesicles from the Golgi is required to maintain slow axonal transport of cytoskeletal proteins.