Autophagy-mediated degradation of synaptic components maintains synaptic homeostasis but also constitutes a mechanism of neurodegeneration. It is unclear how autophagy of synaptic vesicles and components of presynaptic active zones is regulated. Here, we show that Pleckstrin homology containing family member 5 (Plekhg5) modulates autophagy of synaptic vesicles in axon terminals of motoneurons via its function as a guanine exchange factor for Rab26, a small GTPase that specifically directs synaptic vesicles to preautophagosomal structures. Plekhg5 gene inactivation in mice results in a late-onset motoneuron disease, characterized by degeneration of axon terminals. Plekhg5-depleted cultured motoneurons show defective axon growth and impaired autophagy of synaptic vesicles, which can be rescued by constitutively active Rab26. These findings define a mechanism for regulating autophagy in neurons that specifically targets synaptic vesicles. Disruption of this mechanism may contribute to the pathophysiology of several forms of motoneuron disease.