Detached synapses (synaptosomes), first isolated by the author in 1958 and identified as such in 1960, are sealed presynaptic nerve terminals often with a portion of the target cell--sometimes amounting to a complete dendritic spine--adhering to their external surface. They can be prepared in high yield from brain tissue and also in decreasing yield from spinal cord, retina, sympathetic ganglia, myenteric plexus and electric organs. They are sealed structures which, under metabolizing conditions, respire, take up oxygen and glucose, extrude Na+, accumulate K+, maintain a normal membrane potential and, on depolarization, release transmitter in a Ca(2+)-dependent manner. They thus provide an excellent preparation with which to investigate synaptic function without the complications encountered with synapses in situ. They also serve as the parent fraction for preparations of synaptic vesicles and other synaptic components.