In the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, mutations in vacuolar protein sorting (VPS) genes result in secretion of proteins normally localized to the vacuole. Characterization of the VPS pathway has provided considerable insight into mechanisms of protein sorting and vesicle-mediated intracellular transport. We have cloned VPS9 by complementation of the vacuolar protein sorting defect of vps9 cells, characterized its gene product, and investigated its role in vacuolar protein sorting. Cells with a vps9 disruption exhibit severe vacuolar protein sorting defects and a temperature-sensitive growth defect at 38 degrees C. Electron microscopic examination of delta vps9 cells revealed the appearance of novel reticular membrane structures as well as an accumulation of 40- to 50-nm-diameter vesicles, suggesting that Vps9p may be required for the consumption of transport vesicles containing vacuolar protein precursors. A temperature-conditional allele of vps9 was constructed and used to investigate the function of Vps9p. Immediately upon shifting of temperature-conditional vps9 cells to the nonpermissive temperature, newly synthesized carboxypeptidase Y was secreted, indicating that Vps9p function is directly required in the VPS pathway. Antibodies raised against Vps9p immunoprecipitate a rare 52-kDa protein that fractionates with cytosolic proteins following cell lysis and centrifugation. Analysis of the VPS9 DNA sequence predicts that Vps9p is related to human proteins that bind Ras and negatively regulate Ras-mediated signaling. We term the related regions of Vps9p and these Ras-binding proteins a GTPase binding homology domain and suggest that it defines a family of proteins that bind monomeric GTPases. Vps9p may bind and serve as an effector of a rab GTPase, like Vps2lp, required for vacuolar protein sorting.