Association of the Golgi-specific adaptor protein complex 1 (AP-1) with the membrane is a prerequisite for clathrin coat assembly on the trans-Golgi network (TGN). The AP-1 adaptor is efficiently recruited from cytosol onto the TGN by myristoylated ADP-ribosylation factor 1 (ARF1) in the presence of the poorly hydrolyzable GTP analog guanosine 5'-O-(3-thiotriphosphate) (GTPγS). Substituting GTP for GTPγS, however, results in only poor AP-1 binding. Here we show that both AP-1 and clathrin can be recruited efficiently onto the TGN in the presence of GTP when cytosol is supplemented with ARF1. Optimal recruitment occurs at 4 μM ARF1 and with 1 mM GTP. The AP-1 recruited by ARF1-GTP is released from the Golgi membrane by treatment with 1 M Tris-HCl (pH 7) or upon reincubation at 37°C, whereas AP-1 recruited with GTPγS or by a constitutively active point mutant, ARF1(Q71L), remains membrane bound after either treatment. An incubation performed with added ARF1, GTP, and AlF(n), used to block ARF GTPase-activating protein activity, results in membrane-associated AP-1, which is largely insensitive to Tris extraction. Thus, ARF1-GTP hydrolysis results in lower-affinity binding of AP-1 to the TGN. Using two-stage assays in which ARF1-GTP first primes the Golgi membrane at 37°C, followed by AP-1 binding on ice, we find that the high-affinity nucleating sites generated in the priming stage are rapidly lost. In addition, the AP-1 bound to primed Golgi membranes during a second-stage incubation on ice is fully sensitive to Tris extraction, indicating that the priming stage has passed the ARF1-GTP hydrolysis point. Thus, hydrolysis of ARF1-GTP at the priming sites can occur even before AP-1 binding. Our finding that purified clathrin-coated vesicles contain little ARF1 supports the concept that ARF1 functions in the coat assembly process rather than during the vesicle-uncoating step. We conclude that ARF1 is a limiting factor in the GTP-stimulated recruitment of AP-1 in vitro and that it appears to function in a stoichiometric manner to generate high-affinity AP-1 binding sites that have a relatively short half-life.