Autophagy is a catabolic lysosomal degradation process essential for cellular homeostasis and cell survival. Dysfunctional autophagy has been associated with a wide range of human diseases, e.g., cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. A large number of small molecules that modulate autophagy have been widely used to dissect this process and some of them, e.g., chloroquine (CQ), might be ultimately applied to treat a variety of autophagy-associated human diseases. Here we found that vacuolin-1 potently and reversibly inhibited the fusion between autophagosomes and lysosomes in mammalian cells, thereby inducing the accumulation of autophagosomes. Interestingly, vacuolin-1 was less toxic but at least 10-fold more potent in inhibiting autophagy compared with CQ. Vacuolin-1 treatment also blocked the fusion between endosomes and lysosomes, resulting in a defect in general endosomal-lysosomal degradation. Treatment of cells with vacuolin-1 alkalinized lysosomal pH and decreased lysosomal Ca2+ content. Besides marginally inhibiting vacuolar ATPase activity, vacuolin-1 treatment markedly activated RAB5A GTPase activity. Expression of a dominant negative mutant of RAB5A or RAB5A knockdown significantly inhibited vacuolin-1-induced autophagosome-lysosome fusion blockage, whereas expression of a constitutive active form of RAB5A suppressed autophagosome-lysosome fusion. These data suggest that vacuolin-1 activates RAB5A to block autophagosome-lysosome fusion. Vacuolin-1 and its analogs present a novel class of drug that can potently and reversibly modulate autophagy.