The present article provides a brief overview of various aspects on neuropeptides, emphasizing their multitude and their wide distribution in both the peripheral and central nervous system. Interestingly, neuropeptides are also expressed in various types of glial cells under normal and experimental conditions. The recent identification of, often multiple, receptor subtypes for each peptide, as well as the development of peptide antagonists, have provided an experimental framework to explore functional roles of neuropeptides. A characteristic of neuropeptides is the plasticity in their expression, reflecting the fact that release has to be compensated by de novo synthesis at the cell body level. In several systems peptides can be expressed at very low levels normally but are upregulated in response to, for example, nerve injury. The fact that neuropeptides virtually always coexist with one or more classic transmitters suggests that they are involved in modulatory processes and probably in many other types of functions, for example exerting trophic effects. Recent studies employing transgene technology have provided some information on their functional role, although compensatory mechanisms in all probability could disguise even a well defined action. It has been recognized that both 'old' and newly discovered peptides may be involved in the regulation of food intake. Recently the first disease-related mutation in a peptidergic system has been identified, and clinical efficacy of a substance P antagonist for treatment of depression has been reported. Taken together it seems that peptides may play a role particularly when the nervous system is stressed, challenged or afflicted by disease, and that peptidergic systems may, therefore, be targets for novel therapeutic strategies.