Events associated with gastroesophageal reflux have been determined by concurrent diaphragmatic and esophageal body electromyography, video radiography, and manometry in four conscious dogs. Three characteristic phenomena occurred in parallel immediately before and during gastroesophageal reflux: 1) transient lower esophageal sphincter relaxation, 2) profound (99.5%) and selective inhibition of crural diaphragmatic activity, and 3) a previously unrecognized dorsal movement of the gastroesophageal junction (mean 1.3 cm) demonstrated by implanted radiological markers. The patterns associated with spontaneous acid and gas reflux were indistinguishable from those induced by gastric distension. Costolumbar diaphragmatic activity was stable up until the instant of sphincter opening, when there was a single costolumbar contraction of short duration and high amplitude. Esophageal shortening did not occur before reflux. Reflux that occurred after atropine-induced inhibition of lower esophageal sphincter tone to < 2 mmHg was intermittent and coincided with selective crural inhibition. These studies demonstrated that selective crural inhibition is a prerequisite for gastroesophageal reflux and suggest that the crural diaphragm is an important factor for the maintenance of gastroesophageal competence.