The purpose of the study described in this and the following two companion papers was to determine the synaptic actions of neuron R15, an endogenously bursting neurosecretory cell in Aplysia, as a step toward determining its physiological function. The results described in this paper demonstrate that activity in R15 increases the frequency of bursting in the R25/L25 network that triggers respiratory pumping. This excitatory modulatory effect appears to be mediated by R15 alpha 1 peptide. R15 activates both strong and weak modes of respiratory pumping. In contrast, the two R20 cells, which are thought to use the neuropeptides SCPA and SCPB as transmitters, elicit only strong episodes of respiratory pumping. The synaptic actions of R15 also differ from those of the R20 cells in being longer lasting and in exhibiting profound desensitization. Chronic recording of R15 activity in vivo indicates that it does not burst spontaneously in the intact animal, so the synaptic actions of R15 are not chronically desensitized. The neuroendocrine bag cells, which initiate egg laying, had been shown by others to excite R15 and the R25/L25 network that triggers respiratory pumping. Our data indicate that the excitatory effects of the bag cells on the R25/L25 cells are mediated in part by R15.