The synapsins are a family of four neuron-specific phosphoproteins that have been implicated in the regulation of neurotransmitter release. Nevertheless, knock-out mice lacking synapsin Ia and Ib, family members that are major substrates for cAMP and Ca2+/ Calmodulin (CaM)-dependent protein kinases, show limited phenotypic changes when analyzed electrophysiologically (Rosahl, T.W., D. Spillane, M. Missler, J. Herz, D.K. Selig, J.R. Wolff, R.E. Hammer, R.C. Malenka, and T.C. Sudhof. 1995. Nature (Lond.). 375: 488-493; Rosahl, T.W., M. Geppert, D. Spillane, D., J. Herz, R.E. Hammer, R.C. Malenka, and T.C. Sudhof. 1993. Cell. 75:661-670; Li, L., L.S. Chin, O. Shupliakov, L. Brodin, T.S. Sihra, O. Hvalby, V. Jensen, D. Zheng, J.O. McNamara, P. Greengard, and P. Andersen. 1995. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 92:9235-9239; see also Pieribone, V.A., O. Shupliakov, L. Brodin, S. Hilfiker-Rothenfluh, A.J. Czernik, and P. Greengard. 1995. Nature (Lond.). 375:493-497). Here, using the optical tracer FM 1-43, we characterize the details of synaptic vesicle recycling at individual synaptic boutons in hippocampal cell cultures derived from mice lacking synapsin I or wild-type equivalents. These studies show that both the number of vesicles exocytosed during brief action potential trains and the total recycling vesicle pool are significantly reduced in the synapsin I-deficient mice, while the kinetics of endocytosis and synaptic vesicle repriming appear normal.