Nerve terminals are unique among cellular secretory systems in that they can sustain vesicular release at a high rate. Although little is known about the mechanisms that account for the distinctive features of neurotransmitter release, it can be assumed that neuron-specific proteins are involved. One such protein family, the synapsins, are believed to regulate neurotransmitter release through phosphorylation-dependent interactions with synaptic vesicles and cytoskeletal elements. Here we show that clusters of vesicles at synaptic release sites are composed of two pools, a distal pool containing synapsin and a proximal pool devoid of synapsin and located adjacent to the presynaptic membrane. Presynaptic injection of synapsin antibodies resulted in the loss of the distal pool, without any apparent effect on the proximal pool. Depletion of this distal pool was associated with a marked depression of neurotransmitter release evoked by high-frequency (18-20 Hz) but not by low-frequency (0.2 Hz) stimulation. Thus the availability of the synapsin-associated pool of vesicles seems to be required to sustain release of neurotransmitter in response to high-frequency bursts of impulses.