The Aplysia neuroendocrine system is a particularly advantageous model for cellular and molecular studies because of the relatively small number and large size of its component neurons. Recombinant DNA techniques have been used to isolate the genes that encode the precursors of peptides expressed in identified neurons of known function. The organization and developmental expression of these genes have been examined in detail. Several of the genes encode precursors of multiple biologically active peptides that are expressed in cells which also contain classical transmitters. These studies, as well as immunohistochemical studies and the use of intracellular recording and voltage clamp techniques are the first steps toward revealing the mechanisms by which neuropeptides govern simple behaviors.