N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive fusion protein (NSF) is an ATPase required for vesicular transport throughout the constitutive secretory and endocytic pathways. Recently, NSF has also been implicated in regulated exocytosis in synapses--based on SNAP-mediated binding in vitro to a complex of neurotoxin substrates (termed 'SNAREs'). This work has generated an hypothesis in which the interaction of SNAREs (SNAP receptors) on the vesicle membrane with those on the target membrane forms a docking complex to which SNAPs bind, thus allowing NSF to bind and elicit membrane fusion. However, current evidence supports an earlier, pre-fusion role for NSF. We speculate that this role may be as a molecular chaperone for the membrane docking/fusion machinery.