There is increasing evidence that L-glutamate is a major excitatory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. Immunocytochemical studies indicate that glutamate within nerve terminals may be concentrated in vesicles and glutamate-accumulating vesicles have recently been isolated. Exocytotic release of glutamate from synaptosomes (isolated nerve terminals) has not been convincingly demonstrated, however, and remains highly controversial. In order to study the kinetics of release of endogenous L-glutamate from guinea pig cerebral cortical synaptosomes we have devised a continuous enzymatic assay. This has enabled us to identify a pool, equivalent to 15-20% of the total synaptosomal glutamate, which is capable of rapid Ca2+-dependent exocytotic release.