The neuropeptide FMRFamide (Phe-Met-Arg-Phe-NH2) is a member of a large family of related peptides that have been found throughout the animal kingdom. By using an antiserum specific for the Arg-Phe-NH2 moiety, we have found that about 10% of the neurons in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans are immunoreactive. Most of these neurons, which include sensory, motor, and interneurons, were identified on the basis of their number, position, and projection pattern and by analysis of characterized mutants. Neurons that were immunoreactive in hermaphrodite animals were generally also found in males, but each sex had, in addition, sex-specific immunoreactive cells. Staining of hermaphrodite animals from different larval stages suggests that the onset of FMRFamide-like expression is differentially regulated among the cells. We have found a possible neuromodulatory role for the related peptide FLRFamide (Phe-Leu-Arg-Phe-NH2). In an egg-laying assay, FLRFamide by itself was not active but could potentiate a serotonin effect. The FMRFamide-like immunoreactivity was also used as a marker to examine the differentiation of cells that normally undergo programmed cell death. Cells that are destined to die in the Pn.a lineages appear to differentiate and adopt the fate of lineally equivalent cells before cell death.