By using matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight MS, individual peptidergic neurons from Aplysia are assayed. A semiquantitative method is developed for comparing single-cell profiles by using spectral normalization, and peptides are localized to specific cells by mass spectrometric cell mapping. In addition to all previously identified products of the egg-laying hormone (ELH) gene, other peptides are formed from proteolytic hydrolysis of Leu-Leu residues within ELH and acidic peptide (AP). AP exhibits further processing to yield AP1–20 and AP9–27. These peptides appear to be colocalized in vesicles with ELH, transported to specific neuronal targets, and released in a Ca2+-dependent manner. A differential peptide distribution is observed at a specific target cell, and a low-frequency variation of AP, [Thr21]AP, is detected in a single animal
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