The adaptor protein AP-1 is the major coat protein involved in the formation of clathrin-coated vesicles at the trans-Golgi network. The prevailing view is that AP-1 recruitment involves coincident binding to multiple low-affinity sites comprising adenosine diphosphate ribosylation factor 1 (Arf-1)-guanosine triphosphate (GTP), cargo sorting signals, and phosphoinositides. We now show that binding of cargo signal peptides to AP-1 induces a conformational change in its core domain that greatly enhances its interaction with Arf-1-GTP. In addition, we provide evidence for cross talk between the dileucine and tyrosine binding sites within the AP-1 core domain such that binding of a cargo signal to one site facilitates binding to the other site. The stable association of AP-1 with Arf-1-GTP, which is induced by cargo signals, would serve to provide sufficient time for adaptor polymerization and clathrin recruitment while ensuring the packaging of cargo molecules into the forming transport vesicles.