The mechanosensory organs of arachnids receive diverse peripheral inputs. Little is known about the origin, distribution, and function of these chemical synapses, which we examined in lyriform slit sense organ VS-3 of the spider Cupiennius salei. The cuticular slits of this organ are each associated with two large bipolar mechanosensory neurons with different adaptation rates. With intracellular recording, we have now been able to correlate directly the staining intensity of a neuron for acetylcholinesterase with its adaptation rate, thus allowing us simply to stain a neuron to identify its functional type. All rapidly adapting neurons stain more heavily than slowly adapting neurons. Immunostaining of whole-mount preparations reveals GABA-like immunoreactive fibers forming numerous varicosities at the surface of all sensory neurons in VS-3; peripheral GABA-like immunoreactive somata are lacking. Sectioning the leg nerve procures rapid degeneration of most fiber profiles, confirming that the fibers are efferent. Punctate synapsin-like immunoreactivity colocalizes to these varicosities, although some synapsin-like immunoreactive puncta are GABA-immunonegative. Fibers with similar immunoreactivities are also associated with trichobothria, tactile hairs, internal joint receptors, i.e. other types of spider mechanosensory organs. In organ VS-3, immunoreactivity is most dense across the initial axon segment. The exact distribution of peripheral synapses was reconstructed from a 10-microm-long electron micrograph series of the dendritic, somatic, and initial axon regions of acetylcholinesterase-stained VS-3 neurons. These reveal a pattern similar to that of the synapsin-like immunoreactivity. Two different types of synapse were distinguished on the basis of their presynaptic vesicle populations. Many peripheral synapses thus appear to derive from efferent GABA-like immunoreactive fibers and probably provide centrifugal inhibitory control of primary mechanosensory activities.