Tetanus toxin (TeTX) is a dichain protein that blocks neuroexocytosis, an action attributed previously to Zn2+-dependent proteolysis of synaptobrevin (Sbr) by its light chain (LC). Herein, its cleavage of Sbr in rat cerebrocortical synaptosomes was shown to be minimized by captopril, an inhibitor of certain metalloendoproteases, whereas this agent only marginally antagonized the inhibition of noradrenaline release, implicating a second action of the toxin. This hypothesis was proven by preparing three mutants (H233A, E234A, H237A) of the LC lacking the ability to cleave Sbr and reconstituting them with native heavy chain. The resultant dichains were found to block synaptosomal transmitter release, albeit with lower potency than that made from wild type LC; as expected, captopril attenuated only the inhibition caused by the protease-active wild type toxin. Moreover, these protease-inactive toxins or their LCs blocked evoked quantal release of transmitter when micro-injected inside Aplysia neurons. TeTX was known to stimulate in vitro a Ca2+-dependent transglutaminase (TGase) (Facchiano, F., and Luini, A. (1992) J. Biol. Chem. 267, 13267-13271), an affect found here to be reduced by an inhibitor of this enzyme, monodansylcadaverine. Accordingly, treatment of synaptosomes with the latter antagonized the inhibition of noradrenaline release by TeTX while not affecting Sbr cleavage. This drug also attenuated the inhibitory action of all the mutants. Hence, it is concluded that TeTX inhibits neurotransmitter release by proteolysis of Sbr and a protease-independent activation of a neuronal TGase.