Glycine was taken up by a synaptic vesicle fraction from spinal cord in a Mg-ATP-dependent manner. The accumulation of glycine was inhibited by carbonyl cyanide-m-chlorophenylhydrazone (CCCP) and nigericin, agents known to destroy the proton gradient across the vesicle membrane. Vesicular uptake of glycine was clearly different from synaptosomal uptake, with respect to both the affinity constant and the effect of Na+, ATP, CCCP, and temperature. Oligomycin and strychnine did not inhibit the vesicular uptake, showing that neither mitochondrial H(+)-ATPase nor binding to strychnine-sensitive glycine receptors was involved. It is suggested that the vesicular uptake of glycine is driven by a proton gradient generated by a Mg2(+)-ATPase. A low concentration of Cl- had little effect on the uptake of glycine, whereas the uptake of glutamate in the same experiment was highly stimulated. High concentrations of gamma-amino-n-butyric acid and beta-alanine inhibited vesicular glycine uptake, but glutamate did not. Accumulation of glycine was found to be fourfold higher in a spinal cord synaptic vesicle fraction than in a vesicle fraction from cerebral cortex.