Neurotransmitter release relies on a series of synaptic vesicle trafficking reactions. We have determined the molecular basis of these reactions by microinjecting, into 'giant' nerve terminals of squid, probes that interfere with presynaptic proteins. These probes affect neurotransmitter release and disrupt nerve terminal structure. From the nature of these lesions, it is possible to deduce the roles of individual proteins in specific vesicle trafficking reactions. This approach has revealed the function of more than a dozen presynaptic proteins and we hypothesize that neurotransmitter release requires the coordinated action of perhaps 50-100 proteins.