Each hemisegment of the Manduca sexta larva is supplied with a subepidermal plexus of approximately 350 multidendritic neurons. An initial set of neurons, the primary plexus neurons, arise at 35-45% of embryogenesis. These neurons comprise 12-16 uniquely identifiable neurons per hemisegment that have homologues in other insect larvae. Each spreads processes across a characteristic portion of the body wall and has an axon that projects into the central nervous system. Secondary plexus neurons are born in two waves: the first between 70% and 80% of embryogenesis and the second during the molt to the second larval stage. The secondary plexus neurons are multidendritic, spread uniformly across the body wall, and appear to make contacts with the primary plexus neurons. Each secondary plexus cell arises as part of a five-cell cluster; the other cells produce a sensory bristle and socket along with the bristle sensory neuron and a glial cell. Application of nitric oxide (NO) donors induces plexus neurons to produce cyclic 3',5' guanosine monophosphate (cGMP), suggesting the presence of soluble guanylate cyclase. With few exceptions, plexus neurons become sensitive to NO stimulation approximately 10 hours after their birth and remain so throughout larval life. Cyclic GMP is detected primarily in the cytoplasm of plexus neurons and extends into the finest peripheral dendrites. Our results suggest that cGMP participates in the development and/or physiology of this peripheral neural plexus.