Calcium-triggered exocytosis at the synapse is suppressed by addition of calcium chelators, but the effects of endogenous Ca(2+) buffers have not been tested. We find that 80% of Ca(2+) binding sites in the synaptic terminal of retinal bipolar cells were associated with mobile molecules that suppressed activation of Ca(2+)-sensitive K(+) channels with an efficiency equivalent to approximately 1.2 mM BAPTA. Removing these buffers caused a 30-fold increase in the number of vesicles released by Ca(2+) tail currents lasting approximately 0.5 ms and a 2-fold increase in the rapidly releasable pool of vesicles (RRP). The effects of BAPTA and EGTA indicate that vesicles comprising the RRP were docked at variable distances from Ca(2+) channels. We propose that endogenous Ca(2+) buffers regulate the size of the RRP by suppressing the release of vesicles toward the periphery of the active zone.