Important insights into mechanisms by which neuromuscular activity can be modulated have been gained by the study of experimentally advantageous preparations such as the ARC neuromuscular system of Aplysia. Previous studies have indicated that one source of modulatory input to the ARC muscle is its own two motor neurons, B15 and B16. Both of these neurons synthesize multiple peptide cotransmitters in addition to their primary neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh). Peptides present in the ARC motor neurons include SCPA, SCPB, buccalin A and B, and myomodulin A. We have now purified a novel neuropeptide, myomodulin B, which is structurally similar to myomodulin A. Myomodulin B is present in two identified Aplysia neurons that contain myomodulin A; the ARC motor neuron B16 and the abdominal neuron L10. Ratios of myomodulin A to myomodulin B are approximately 6:1 in both cells. Like myomodulin A, myomodulin B potentiates ARC neuromuscular activity; it acts postsynaptically, and increases the size and relaxation rate of muscle contractions elicited either by motor neuron stimulation or by direct application of ACh to the ARC. When myomodulin A is applied to the ARC in high doses (e.g., at about 10(-7) M), it decreases the size of motor neuron-elicited muscle contractions. This inhibitory effect is never seen with myomodulin B. Thus, despite the structural similarity between the two myomodulins, there exists what may be an important difference in their bioactivity.