The guanylin family of bioactive peptides consists of three endogenous peptides, including guanylin, uroguanylin and lymphoguanylin, and one exogenous peptide toxin produced by enteric bacteria. These small cysteine-rich peptides activate cell-surface receptors, which have intrinsic guanylate cyclase activity, thus modulating cellular function via the intracellular second messenger, cyclic GMP. Membrane guanylate cyclase-C is an intestinal receptor for guanylin and uroguanylin that is responsible for stimulation of Cl- and HCO3- secretion into the intestinal lumen. Guanylin and uroguanylin are produced within the intestinal mucosa to serve in a paracrine mechanism for regulation of intestinal fluid and electrolyte secretion. Enteric bacteria secrete peptide toxin mimics of uroguanylin and guanylin that activate the intestinal receptors in an uncontrolled fashion to produce secretory diarrhea. Opossum kidney guanylate cyclase is a key receptor in the kidney that may be responsible for the diuretic and natriuretic actions of uroguanylin in vivo. Uroguanylin serves in an endocrine axis linking the intestine and kidney where its natriuretic and diuretic actions contribute to the maintenance of Na+ balance following oral ingestion of NaCl. Lymphoguanylin is highly expressed in the kidney and myocardium where this unique peptide may act locally to regulate cyclic GMP levels in target cells. Lymphoguanylin is also produced in cells of the lymphoid-immune system where other physiological functions may be influenced by intracellular cyclic GMP. Observations of nature are providing insights into cellular mechanisms involving guanylin peptides in intestinal diseases such as colon cancer and diarrhea and in chronic renal diseases or cardiac disorders such as congestive heart failure where guanylin and/or uroguanylin levels in the circulation and/or urine are pathologically elevated. Guanylin peptides are clearly involved in the regulation of salt and water homeostasis, but new findings indicate that these novel peptides have diverse physiological roles in addition to those previously documented for control of intestinal and renal function.