Members of the receptor-guanylate cyclase (rGC) family possess an intracellular catalytic domain that is regulated by an extracellular receptor domain. GC-C, an intestinally expressed rGC, was initially cloned by homology as an orphan receptor. The search for its ligands has yielded three candidates: STa (a bacterial toxin that causes traveler's diarrhea) and the endogenous peptides uroguanylin and guanylin. Here, by performing Northern and Western blots, and by measuring [125I]STa binding and STa-dependent elevation of cGMP levels, we investigate whether the distribution of GC-C matches that of its endogenous ligands in the rat intestine. We establish that 1) uroguanylin is essentially restricted to small bowel; 2) guanylin is very low in proximal small bowel, increasing to prominent levels in distal small bowel and throughout colon; 3) GC-C messenger RNA and STa-binding sites are uniformly expressed throughout the intestine; and 4) GC-C-mediated cGMP synthesis peaks at the proximal and distal extremes of the intestine (duodenum and colon), but is nearly absent in the middle (ileum). These observations suggest that GC-C's activity may be posttranslationally regulated, demonstrate that the distribution of GC-C is appropriate to mediate the actions of both uroguanylin and guanylin, and help to refine current hypotheses about the physiological role(s) of these peptides.