1. The ECL cells control gastric acid secretion by mobilizing histamine in response to circulating gastrin. In addition, the ECL cells are thought to operate under nervous control and to be influenced by local inflammatory processes. 2. The purpose of the present study was to monitor histamine mobilization from ECL cells in conscious rats in response to locally applied regulatory peptides, candidate neurotransmitters and inflammatory mediators. 3. Microdialysis probes were implanted in the submucosa of the acid-producing part of the rat stomach. Three days later, the agents to be tested were administered via the microdialysis probe and their effects on basal (48 h fast) and stimulated (intravenous infusion of gastrin-17, 3 nmol kg(-1) h(-1)) mobilization of ECL-cell histamine was monitored by continuous measurement of histamine in the perfusate (radioimmunoassay). 4. Locally administered gastrin-17 and sulfated cholecystokinin-8 mobilized histamine as did pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating peptide-27, vasoactive intestinal peptide, peptide YY, met-enkephalin, endothelin and noradrenaline, adrenaline and isoprenaline. 5. While gastrin, sulfated-cholecystokinin-8, met-enkephalin and isoprenaline induced a sustained elevation of the submucosal histamine concentration, endothelin, peptide YY, pituitary adenylate cyclase activating peptide, vasoactive intestinal peptide, noradrenaline and adrenaline induced a transient elevation. 6. Calcitonin gene-related peptide, galanin, somatostatin and the prostanoid misoprostol inhibited gastrin-stimulated histamine mobilization. 7. The gut hormones neurotensin and secretin and the neuropeptides gastrin-releasing peptide, neuropeptide Y and substance P failed to affect ECL-cell histamine mobilization, while motilin and neuromedin U-25 had weak stimulatory effects. Also acetylcholine, carbachol, serotonin and the amino acid neurotransmitters aspartate, gamma-aminobutyric acid, glutamate and glycine were inactive or weakly active as was bradykinin. 8. In summary, a range of circulating hormones, local hormones, catecholamines, neuropeptides and inflammatory mediators participate in controlling the activity of rat stomach ECL cells in situ.