Bombesin-like peptides and their receptors are widely distributed throughout the gut and are potential mitogens for a number of gastrointestinal (GI) cancers. We have analysed the expression of bombesin-like peptides and their receptor subtypes in normal and neoplastic colorectal tissue. Expression was analysed by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) using receptor and ligand subtype-specific primers and then expression localized by in situ hybridization (ISH) with riboprobes synthesized by in vitro transcription of cloned PCR product. Colorectal cancer tissue and matched normal mucosa from 23 patients were studied. Two of these patients had synchronous adenomatous polyps and two had synchronous hepatic metastases which were also studied. An additional two patients with adenomatous polyps were studied along with matched normal mucosa. Gastrin releasing peptide (GRP) receptor and ligand expression was present in all samples but with overall greater expression in the tumour samples. Neuromedin B (NMB) receptor expression was not detectable. NMB ligand was detected in all but one mucosal sample with overall overexpression in the tumour samples. Bombesin receptor subtype 3 (BRS-3) receptor expression was not detectable. These data support the possibility that GRP may be an autocrine growth factor in colorectal cancer.