Despite extensive information on many aspects of peptide neurobiology, the links between the behavioral effects of neuropeptides and their actions at the cellular and molecular levels are not fully understood. A pair of insect neuropeptides, the cardioacceleratory peptides (CAPs) of the tobacco hawkmoth Manduca sexta, provide an opportunity to elucidate these links. The CAPs are involved in the modulation of four distinct types of behavior during the life cycle of this moth. Functional differences at these four developmental periods can be explained by stage-specific changes in target sensitivity and the distribution of the CAP-containing neurons, including a set of peptidergic neurons that alter their transmitter phenotype post-embryonically. Studies show that inositol 1,4,5-triphosphate (IP3), linked to intracellular Ca 2+, mediates the response of the cells to the CAPs. This preparation thus provides additional insights into the mechanisms underlying the action of multifunctional neuropeptides.
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