Synaptophysin interacts with synaptobrevin in membranes of adult small synaptic vesicles. The synaptophysin/synaptobrevin complex promotes synaptobrevin to built up functional SNARE complexes thereby modulating synaptic efficiency. Synaptophysin in addition is a cholesterol-binding protein. Depleting the membranous cholesterol content by filipin or beta-methylcyclodextrin (beta-MCD) decreased the solubility of synaptophysin in Triton X-100 with less effects on synaptobrevin. In small synaptic vesicles from rat brain the synaptophysin/synaptobrevin complex was diminished upon beta-MCD treatment as revealed by chemical cross-linking. Mice with a genetic mutation in the Niemann-Pick C1 gene developing a defect in cholesterol sorting showed significantly reduced amounts of the synaptophysin/synaptobrevin complex compared to their homo- or heterozygous littermates. Finally when using primary cultures of mouse hippocampus the synaptophysin/synaptobrevin complex was down-regulated after depleting the endogenous cholesterol content by the HMG-CoA-reductase inhibitor lovastatin. Alternatively, treatment with cholesterol up-regulated the synaptophysin/synaptobrevin interaction in these cultures. These data indicate that the synaptophysin/synaptobrevin interaction critically depends on a high cholesterol content in the membrane of synaptic vesicles. Variations in the availability of cholesterol may promote or impair synaptic efficiency by interfering with this complex.