Pedal peptide (Pep) is a 15-amino-acid neuropeptide that is localized within the Aplysia central nervous system (CNS) predominantly to a broad band of neurons in each pedal ganglion. Pep-neurons were identified by intracellular staining and immunocytology or by radioimmunoassay (RIA) of extracts from identified neurons. RIA reveals that 97% of all Pep-like immunoreactivity (IR-Pep) in pedal nerves is found in the three nerves that innervate the foot. Nearly every Pep-neuron sends an axon out at least one of these three nerves. Application of Pep to foot muscle causes an increase in the amplitude and relaxation rate of contractions driven by nerve stimulation or intracellular stimulation of pedal motor neurons. The increase in relaxation rate was the predominant effect. Intracellular recording in "split-foot" preparations reveals that Pep-neurons increase their overall firing rates and fire in bursts with each step during locomotion. Recovery of IR-Pep from foot perfusate following pedal nerve stimulation increases in a frequency-dependent fashion. Thus it appears that one function of Pep-neurons is to modulate foot muscle contractility during locomotion in Aplysia.