The leucokinin (LK) family of neuropeptides has been found widely amongst invertebrates. A member of this family was purified from adults of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. The peptide sequence for Drosophila leucokinin (DLK) was determined as Asn-Ser-Val-Val-Leu-Gly-Lys-Lys-Gln-Arg-Phe-His-Ser-Trp-Gly-amide, making it the longest member of the family characterized to date. Synthetic DLK peptide was shown to act to stimulate fluid secretion in D. melanogaster Malpighian (renal) tubules by approximately threefold, with an EC(50) of approximately 10(-)(10 )mol l(-)(1), and a secondary effect at approximately 10(-)(7 )mol l(-)(1). DLK also acted to elevate intracellular [Ca(2+)] in the Malpighian tubules by approximately threefold, with an EC(50) of 10(-)(10) to 10(-)(9 )mol l(-)(1). Responses were detected in stellate cells and occasionally in principal cells, although at no concentration tested did [Ca(2+)] in the principal cell increase significantly above background. In stellate cells, DLK produced a biphasic rise in intracellular [Ca(2+)] from resting levels of 80-100 nmol l(-)(1), with a transient peak being followed by a slower rise that peaked at 200-300 nmol l(-)(1) after 3 s, then decayed over approximately 10 s. The wide range of concentrations over which DLK acts suggests the involvement of more than one receptor. The genomic sequence encoding the DLK peptide has been identified, and the gene has been named pp. The gene resides at cytological location 70E3-70F4 of chromosome 3L. The localisation of this first Drosophila LK gene in a genetic model permits a genetic analysis of the locus.