Using a polyclonal antiserum to Dippu-allatostatin 7 (Dippu-AST 7; formerly AST 1) of the cockroach Diploptera punctata, we have demonstrated the presence of AST-like immunoreactivity (ALI) in cells and processes throughout the nervous system, gut, and peripheral tissues of unfed fifth instar and adult Rhodnius prolixus. ALI in apparent neurosecretory cells of the brain, suboesophageal ganglion, and mesothoracic ganglionic mass, as well as in midgut endocrine cells, suggests that Rhodnius allatostatins may act as neurohormones/hormones. The presence of ALI in possible interneurons and areas of neuropile throughout the CNS also suggests roles as neuromodulators and/or neurotransmitters. Dippu-AST 7 inhibits spontaneous and leucokinin 1 (LK 1)-induced contractions of the Rhodnius hindgut in a dose-dependent manner. The low concentrations capable of inhibiting both spontaneous (10(-12)M) and LK 1-induced contractions (10(-10) to 10(-9)M) suggest that ASTs may be acting as neurohormones/hormones on the hindgut. We have also shown that Dippu-AST 7 influences the muscle activity of the Rhodnius dorsal vessel at concentrations as low as 10(-11)M.