This article outlines the lecture presented by Robert Zorec at the Academia Europea meeting in Liverpool on 19 September 2008, four decades after the Sherrington Lecture of Bernard Katz who, together with his colleagues, developed a number of paradigms addressing vesicles in chemical synapses. Vesicles are subcellular organelles that evolved in eukaryotic cells 1000 to 2000 million years ago. They store signalling molecules such as chemical messengers, which are essential for the function of neurons and endocrine cells in supporting the communication between tissues and organs in the human body. Upon a stimulus, the vesicle-stored signalling molecules (neurotransmitters or hormones) are released from cells. This event involves exocytosis, a fundamental biological process, consisting of the merger of the vesicle membrane with the plasma membrane. The two fusing membranes lead to the formation of an aqueous channel – the fusion pore – through which signalling molecules exit into the extracellular space or blood stream. The work of Bernard Katz and colleagues considered that vesicle cargo discharge initially requires the delivery of vesicles to the plasma membrane, where vesicles dock and get primed for fusion with the plasma membrane, and that stimulation initiates the formation of the transient fusion pore through which cargo molecules leave the vesicle lumen in an all-or-none-fashion. However, recent studies indicate that this may not be so simple. Here we highlight the novel findings which indicate that fusion pores are subject to regulations, which affect the release competence of a single vesicle. At least in pituitary lactotrophs, which are the subject of research in our laboratories, single vesicle release of peptide signalling molecules involves modulation of fusion pore diameter and fusion pore kinetics.