The presynaptic function of myosin II was studied at cholinergic synapses formed between rat superior cervical ganglion neurons in culture. Immunofluorescent staining showed that myosin II was colocalized with synaptophysin at the presynaptic nerve terminals. Antimyosin II antibody introduced into presynaptic neurons inhibited synaptic transmission. Transmission was also inhibited in a dose-dependent manner by two inhibitors of myosin light chain kinase: a peptide, SM-1, and an organic inhibitor, wortmannin. The inhibition produced by these agents was dependent on presynaptic activity. Extracellularly applied wortmannin also blocked synaptic transmission, but its effects were slower in onset. Wortmannin also decreased postsynaptic potentials and post-tetanic potentiation in intact superior cervical ganglia. These results suggest a model in which myosin light chain kinase phosphorylates myosin, and the resultant change in actin-myosin interactions is involved in neurotransmitter release.