Members of the myristoylated alanine-rich protein kinase C substrate (MARCKS) family are involved in several cellular processes such as secretion, motility, mitosis, and transformation. In addition to their ability to bind calmodulin and to cross-link actin filaments, reversible binding to the plasma membrane is most certainly an important component of the so far unknown functions of these proteins. We have therefore investigated the binding of murine MARCKS-related protein (MRP) to lipid vesicles. The partition coefficient, K(p), describing the affinity of myristoylated MRP for acidic lipid vesicles (20% phosphatidylserine, 80% phosphatidylcholine) is 5- 8 x 103 M-1, which is only 2-4 times larger than the partition coefficient for the unmyristoylated protein. Interestingly, the affinity of MRP for acidic lipid membranes is 20-30-fold smaller than reported for murine MARCKS (Kim, J., Shishido, T., Jiang, X., Aderem, A. A., and McLaughlin, S. (1994) J. Biol. Chem. 269, 28214-28219). Since only a marginal binding could be observed with neutral phosphatidylcholine vesicles, we propose that electrostatic interactions are the major determinant of the binding of MRP to pure lipid membranes. Although the myristoyl moiety does not contribute drastically to the binding of MRP to vesicles, photolabeling experiments with a photoreactive phospholipid probe show that the fatty acid is embedded in the bilayer. The same membrane topology was found for bovine brain MARCKS. Since the relatively low affinity of MRP for vesicles is insufficient to account for a stable anchoring of the protein to cellular membranes, insertion of the myristoyl moiety into the bilayer might favor the interaction of MRP with additional factors required for the binding of the protein to intracellular membranes.