Bombesin stimulates growth of the stomach and pancreas in adult rats. Part of this effect is thought to be through the release of CCK following bombesin treatment. We studied the effect of long term administration of bombesin on the pancreas and stomach in suckling rats and examined the action of bombesin using specific CCK antagonist (CR-1409) and bombesin antagonists (GRP19-26, D-Phe19, Leu26CH2NHCOCH3 = cpd 17; L-686,095-001C002 = cpd 23). Rat pups (7-days-old) were given bombesin (20 micrograms/kg body wt. twice a day) or vehicle (1% gelatin) for 9 days. Bombesin stimulated pancreatic and gastric growth (tissue weight, total protein and DNA content all increased). Pancreatic trypsinogen concentration and content showed a 2-3-fold increase. CR-1409 at 6 mg/kg body wt., a dose that blocked the trophic action of CCK-33 when given to pups at similar ages, did not affect the bombesin-stimulated growth of the pancreas or the increase in trypsinogen level. At 2.4 mg/kg body wt., cpd 17 partially blocked and cpd 23 completely blocked the trophic effect of bombesin on the pancreas and stomach and the increase in trypsinogen level in the pancreas. RU-486, a type II glucocorticoid receptor antagonist, given at a dose sufficient to block the physiological action of glucocorticoid, had no effect on bombesin-stimulated growth of the pancreas. Thus, in vivo, bombesin acts directly on the neonatal pancreas and stomach.