To investigate the complexity of the endomembrane transport system in the early diverging eukaryote, Giardia lamblia, we characterized homologues of the GTP-binding proteins, Rab1 and Rab2, involved in regulating vesicular trafficking between the endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi in higher eukaryotes, and GDI, which plays a key role in the cycling of Rab proteins. G. lamblia Rab1, 2.1, and GDI sequences largely resemble yeast and mammalian homologues, are transcribed as 0.66-, 0.62-, and 1.4-kb messages, respectively, and are expressed during growth and encystation. Western analyses detected an abundant Rab/GDI complex at approximately 80 kDa, and free GDI (60 kDa) in both trophozoites and encysting cells. Immunoelectron microscopy with antibody to Rab1 localized Rab with ER, encystation secretory vesicles, and lysosome-like peripheral vesicles. GDI associated with these structures, and with small vesicles found throughout the cytoplasm, consistent with GDI's key role in Rab cycling between organelles within the cell.