Cholecystokinin (CCK) is an important 'brain-gut' hormone located both in the gastrointestinal (GI) system and in the CNS. At least two different G-coupled high affinity receptors have been identified: the CCK-A and the CCK-B receptors. Although the complex biological role of CCK is, as yet, not fully understood, its connection with many different physiological processes both at the GI level and at the CNS level is now well established. There is much potential for therapeutic use of CCK receptor ligands, however, clear investigations have yet to be completed. Several chemical families have been investigated over the last 20 years to find potent, subtype selective and stable CCK receptor agonists and antagonists. The main goal was to discover new therapeutic drugs acting on GI and/or on CNS diseases and also, to obtain powerful pharmacological tools that could permit a better understanding of the biological role of CCK. Despite promising results from investigations into medicinal chemistry of CCK receptor ligands, the therapeutical applications of these ligands still remains to be defined. This article reviews the main biological role of CCK, the therapeutic potential of CCK-A and CCK-B receptor agonists and antagonists and the common compounds from the different families of ligands.