To obtain access to novel proteins of the neuronal synapse, we have raised antisera against proteins of synaptic plasma membranes and used them for immunoscreening brain cDNA expression libraries. One of the newly isolated cDNAs encodes an acidic protein of 75 kDa with a distinct architecture of structural domains and multiple potential phosphorylation sites. Light and electron microscopy employing monospecific antisera raised against the expression product indicate a synapse-specific, presynaptic localization of this protein in many synapses of the chicken and rat nervous system. Its overall distribution in brain is very similar to that of synaptophysin, a ubiquitous protein of synaptic vesicles. In addition to brain, the protein or its mRNA is expressed in adrenal gland and anterior and posterior pituitary, but was not detected in a variety of other tissues. In controlled pore glass chromatography the native protein copurifies with synaptic vesicles and largely remains associated with them under various washing conditions. However, its amino acid sequence is very hydrophilic and it segregates into the aqueous phase in detergent phase partition. An earlier step of synaptic vesicle purification, sucrose cushion centrifugation, separates a vesicle-bound fraction of this protein from an unbound fraction. This seems to be a new, perhaps peripheral, protein of synaptic vesicles for which we propose the name, amphiphysin.