The neuroendocrine bag cell neurons of the marine mollusk Aplysia produce prolonged inhibition that lasts for more than 2 hr. We purified a peptide from the abdominal ganglion that mimics this inhibition. Mass spectrometry and microsequence analysis indicate that the peptide is 40 as long and is amidated at its carboxyl terminus. It is highly homologous to vertebrate neuropeptide Y (NPY) and other members of the pancreatic polypeptide family. As determined from cloned cDNA, the gene coding for the precursor protein shares a common structural organization with genes encoding precursors of the vertebrate family. The peptides may therefore have arisen from a common ancestral gene. Bag cell neurons are immunoreactive for Aplysia NPY, and Northern blot analysis indicates that as with its vertebrate counterparts, the peptide is abundantly expressed in the CNS. This suggests that peptides related to NPY may have important functions in the nervous system of Aplysia as well as in other invertebrates. © 1992.