A protein with an apparent mol. wt of 18,000 daltons (synaptobrevin) was identified in synaptic vesicles from rat brain. Some of its properties were studied using monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies. Synaptobrevin is an integral membrane protein with an isoelectric point of approximately 6.6. During subcellular fractionation, synaptobrevin followed the distribution of small synaptic vesicles, with the highest enrichment in the purified vesicle fraction. Immunogold electron microscopy of subcellular particles revealed that synaptobrevin is localized in nerve endings where it is concentrated in the membranes of virtually all small synaptic vesicles. No significant labeling was observed on the membranes of peptide-containing large dense core vesicles. In agreement with these results, synaptobrevin immunoreactivity has a widespread distribution in nerve terminal-containing regions of the central and peripheral nervous system as shown by light microscopy immunocytochemistry. Outside the nervous system, synaptobrevin immunoreactivity was found in endocrine cells and cell lines (endocrine pancreas, adrenal medulla, PC12 cells, insulinoma cells) but not in other cell types, for example smooth muscle, skeletal muscle and exocrine pancreas. Thus, the distribution of synaptobrevin is similar to that of synaptophysin, a well-characterized membrane protein of small vesicles in neurons and endocrine cells.