We investigated the mechanism of action of methionine enkephalin (MEK) on HCl-stimulated secretin release and pancreatic exocrine secretion. Anesthetized rats with pancreatobiliary cannulas and isolated upper small intestinal loops were perfused intraduodenally with 0.01 N HCl while bile and pancreatic juice were diverted. The effect of intravenous MEK on acid-stimulated secretin release and pancreatic exocrine secretion was then studied with or without coinfusion of naloxone, an anti-somatostatin (SS) serum, or normal rabbit serum. Duodenal acid perfusate, which contains secretin-releasing peptide (SRP) activity, was collected from donor rats with or without pretreatment with MEK, MEK + naloxone, or MEK + anti-SS serum, concentrated by ultrafiltration, and neutralized. The concentrated acid perfusate (CAP), which contains SRP bioactivity, was infused intraduodenally into recipient rats. MEK increased plasma SS concentration and inhibited secretin release and pancreatic fluid and bicarbonate secretion dose-dependently. The inhibition was partially reversed by naloxone and anti-SS serum but not by normal rabbit serum. In recipient rats, CAP increased plasma secretin level and pancreatic secretion. CAP SRP bioactivity decreased when it was collected from MEK-treated donor rats; this was partially reversed by coinfusion with naloxone or anti-SS serum. These results suggest that in the rat, MEK inhibition of acid-stimulated pancreatic secretion and secretin release involves suppression of SRP activity release. Thus the MEK inhibitory effect appears to be mediated in part by endogenous SS.