Synaptic vesicles (SVs) are essential organelles that participate in the release of neurotransmitters from a neuron. Biochemical analysis of purified SVs was instrumental in the identification of proteins involved in exocytotic membrane fusion and neurotransmitter uptake. Although numerous protocols have been published detailing the isolation of SVs from the brain, those that give the highest-purity vesicles often have low yields. Here we describe a protocol for the small-scale isolation of SVs from mouse and rat brain. The procedure relies on standard fractionation techniques, including differential centrifugation, rate-zonal centrifugation and size-exclusion chromatography, but it has been optimized for minimal vesicle loss while maintaining a high degree of purity. The protocol can be completed in less than 1 d and allows the recovery of ∼150 μg of vesicle protein from a single mouse brain, thus allowing vesicle isolation from transgenic mice.