Pre-exposure of the rat gastric mucosa to capsaicin reduced the mucosal lesion by 50% ethanol to 1/4. Treatment with an antagonist of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), CGRP (8-37), nullified the effect of capsaicin. During constant perfusion of the gastric lumen with physiological saline + pepstatin, the CGRP level was not increased by 50% ethanol, but it showed a peak (802.5 +/- 145.7 pg/2 min) after 1.6 mM capsaicin. Four minutes after capsaicin, the CGRP level was kept at a high level and the gastric lesion was markedly reduced by re-exposure of the mucosa to 50% ethanol. At 20-30 min after capsaicin, the CGRP levels returned to the resting level and the reddened area by 50% ethanol was not reduced. It was concluded that capsaicin transiently prevented the mucosal lesion through CGRP release.