The tripeptide Asn-d-Trp-Phe-NH(2) (NdWFamide) is a D-amino acid-containing cardioexcitatory peptide initially isolated from Aplysia. Previously we detected NdWFamide immunoreactivity in the visceral giant cells, the largest neurons in the brain of the terrestrial slug Limax located at the dorsal surface of the visceral ganglia. In the present study, we further analyzed the morphological features of these neurons by an intracellular injection of Lucifer yellow, and found that these neurons extend neurites out of the brain through at least 5 nerve bundles. We then isolated a gene and a cDNA clone potentially encoding a NdWFamide precursor, and investigated expression at the levels of mRNA and protein in Limax. The NdWFamide gene consists of 5 exons spanning at least 17 kb of the genome, and its open reading frame extends over 3 exons. The spatial expression pattern of NdWFamide mRNA was almost identical to that of the NdWFamide peptide, with some minor discrepancies in between. Although the most remarkable expression was evident in the visceral giant cells, we also found the expression of NdWFamide mRNA and peptide in the cerebral and pedal ganglia. These results suggest the involvement of NdWFamide in the regulation of a broad area of the slug's body.