Synaptic vesicles dock to the plasma membrane at synapses to facilitate rapid exocytosis. Docking was originally proposed to require the soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive fusion attachment protein receptor (SNARE) proteins; however, perturbation studies suggested that docking was independent of the SNARE proteins. We now find that the SNARE protein syntaxin is required for docking of all vesicles at synapses in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. The active zone protein UNC-13, which interacts with syntaxin, is also required for docking in the active zone. The docking defects in unc-13 mutants can be fully rescued by overexpressing a constitutively open form of syntaxin, but not by wild-type syntaxin. These experiments support a model for docking in which UNC-13 converts syntaxin from the closed to the open state, and open syntaxin acts directly in docking vesicles to the plasma membrane. These data provide a molecular basis for synaptic vesicle docking.