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The synapsins are a family of neuron-specific proteins, associated with the cytoplasmic surface of synaptic vesicles, which have been shown to regulate neurotransmitter release in mature synapses and to accelerate development of the nervous system. Using neuronal cultures from mice lacking synapsin I, synapsin II, or both synapsins I and II, we have now found that synapsin I and synapsin II play distinct roles in neuronal development. Deletion of synapsin II, but not synapsin I, greatly retarded axon formation. Conversely, deletion of synapsin I, but not synapsin II, greatly retarded synapse formation. Remarkably, the deletion of both synapsins led to partial restoration of the wild phenotype. The results suggest that the synapsins play separate but coordinated developmental roles.