Studies on the transport kinetics and the posttranslational modification of synapsin I in mouse retinal ganglion cells were performed to obtain an insight into the possible factors involved in forming the structural and functional differences between the axon and its terminals. Synapsin I, a neuronal phosphoprotein associated with small synaptic vesicles and cytoskeletal elements at the presynaptic terminals, is thought to be involved in modulating neurotransmitter release. The state of phosphorylation of synapsin I in vitro regulates its interaction with both synaptic vesicles and cytoskeletal components, including microtubules and microfilaments. Here we present the first evidence that in the mouse retinal ganglion cells most synapsin I is transported down the axon, together with the cytomatrix proteins, at the same rate as the slow component b of axonal transport, and is phosphorylated at both the head and tail regions. In addition, our data suggest that, after synapsin I has reached the nerve endings, the relative proportions of variously phosphorylated synapsin I molecules change, and that these changes lead to a decrease in the overall content of phosphorus. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that, in vivo, the phosphorylation of synapsin I along the axon prevents the formation of a dense network that could impair organelle movement. On the other hand, the dephosphorylation of synapsin I at the nerve endings may regulate the clustering of small synaptic vesicles and modulate neurotransmitter release by controlling the availability of small synaptic vesicles for exocytosis.