The tandem C2-domains of synaptotagmin 1 (syt) function as Ca(2+)-binding modules that trigger exocytosis; in the absence of Ca(2+), syt inhibits spontaneous release. Here, we used proline linkers to constrain and alter the relative orientation of these C2-domains. Short poly-proline helices have a period of three, so large changes in the relative disposition of the C2-domains result from changing the length of the poly-proline linker by a single residue. The length of the linker was varied one residue at a time, revealing a periodicity of three for the ability of the linker mutants to interact with anionic phospholipids and drive evoked synaptic transmission; syt efficiently drove exocytosis when its tandem C2-domains pointed in the same direction. Analysis of spontaneous release revealed a reciprocal relationship between the activation and clamping activities of the linker mutants. Hence, different structural states of syt underlie the control of distinct forms of synaptic transmission.