The formation of chemical synapses involves reciprocal induction and independent assembly of pre- and postsynaptic structures. The major events in presynaptic terminal differentiation are the formation of the active zone and the clustering of synaptic vesicles. A number of proteins that are present in the presynaptic active zone have been identified. Recent studies of various mutants have clarified the in vivo functions of some of the main players. Time-lapse imaging studies have captured dynamic and transient events in the transport of synaptic components, and therefore provided insight into the early stages of synaptogenesis.