Abstract: Neurotransmitter release from rat brain synaptosomes was measured following pretreatment with various phorbol esters. Ca2+-dependent, evoked neurotransmitter release was increased by phorbol esters that were active in stimulating protein kinase C. Protein kinase C activation was demonstrated by increased incorporation of 32P into 87-kilodalton phosphoprotein, a specific substrate for that kinase. Inactive phorbol esters had no effect on neurotransmitter release or on the phosphorylation of 87-kilodalton phosphoprotein. The increased release was observed in either crude cortical synaptosomal fractions (P2) or purified cortical synaptosomal fractions. The enhancement was found for all neurotransmitters (norepinephrine, acetylcholine, γ-aminobutyric acid, serotonin, dopamine, and aspartate), all brain regions (cerebral cortex, hippocampus, and corpus striatum), and all secretagogues (elevated extracellular K+ level, veratridine, or A23187) examined. It was also observed at all calcium concentrations present during stimulation of release. The phorbol ester enhancement of Ca2+-dependent release occurred whether or not calcium was present during pretreatment. These results indicate that stimulation of protein kinase C leads to an enhanced sensitivity of the stimulus-secretion coupling processes to calcium within the nerve terminal. The results support the possibility that presynaptic activation of protein kinase C modulates nerve terminal neurotransmitter release in the CNS.